Is it wrong to be an emotional person and a decision maker simultaneously?

Is it wrong to be an emotional person and a decision maker simultaneously?

Most of you may get this advice often “don’t be emotional while making your decision!” You have heard a lot of this line, and might have attempted to block all your floating emotions in crucial decision making .You may have thought that you did it successfully too!

But, what if you are now informed about the research studies, cognitive neuroscience findings, telling that all decisions, at some level, are guided by emotional processes.

Research work in area of social sciences provide ample of facts and reasons to rely upon emotions while making complex decisions in life.

What is emotion?

Following a standard definition of emotion, an emotion is a feeling such as happiness, love, fear, anger, or hatred, which can be caused by the situations that you are in, or people you are with.

Ekman defined, emotion of an infant is direct expression of affect. Human emotions are meant to fulfil social expectations. affect is a non-conscious experience of intensity; it is an abstract thing which cannot be realized in language whereas, emotions are the projection or display of the feeling. Theorists defined display of emotion as voice, body movement or innate facial expression.

Well, you have to make a decision! Puff

The act of thinking is very crucial in decision making as, it is the process of critically gathering, analyzing and evaluating information. The selection of final choice among other alternative options is only possible through the act of clear thinking. For a lot of long time, a clear thinking recognized as rational thinking, which lead to the desired goal.

Theorist argues that this rational thinking may get clouded due to emotions.  But, is it possible to simply shut the door and tell your emotions to knock sometime later, yes! Trained professional and wise person can do and they must be doing this. But the question is, is it so harmful to use your emotion while making any decision?

Not anymore! Simon stated about “Bounded Rationality”, in simple words, rationality do have some limitations. Normative model of decision making explains how decisions should be made, but descriptive model tells about how decisions are actually made (Baron, 2000). Studies reflect that human decision making is constrained by bounded rationality and does not always follow normative model. There are situation where you may have clear information about problem, available options and desired outcome. In such case, normative model works but in uncertain situation intuitive thinking helps in reaching out the solution.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman  regarded intuition as based on one’s expertise . In Thinking Fast and Slow, he stated “intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition”. Emotion guide us to seek out the solutions .Certain emotions give rise to signals in body which is related to higher brain area. Emotions are originated and related to past learning and experiences. Emotions help you to lessen cognitive load too, positive emotions lead to a heuristic processing of information, in other words, when you are happy, feel positive, you tend to relay upon already available information, it saves you from exertion from a long, systematic processing of information.

It is not about eliminating all emotions while making any decision, wise people just know which emotion is necessary to reach out to the solution and accordingly they use it and keep other emotion on stand to wait. From the shift to rational thinker, bounded rationality and ecological decision making, the concept of judgment and decision has changed dynamically, one can never put GOOD or BAD decision in separate criteria. This is all combination and puzzle of the available information regarding the problem, time limit to reach out the solution, use of support and uncertainty about the future.

Your emotions were never your enemy, you just need to know when to use them and how to use them and sometime not using them is also something emotions tell us. A self-proclaimed rational thinker may never know that he/she actually played upon emotions and a so called, intuitive person may not be fully aware that, his intuitions are not random thought, but rather collection of his /her past experience, learning and expertise.

It is not possible to be rational all the times as we are also victim of limited cognitive capacity but a group of individuals with limited cognitive capacity and limited information can produce a rational order. We can use our emotion guided by our past leaning and experience in selection of a rational choice.

Emotions as a part of scientific thinking

Recognizing emotions in oneself and in another , understanding such emotional reactions and also being able to manage own emotions according to the demand of situation is a process where we choose, select and make decision about our action and subsequent outcome . Thus, is it possible to exclude emotions in process of thinking? All we can say is “NO”!

Emotions are part of your ability to think scientifically too. Recent studies claimed awe as a scientific emotion, as it involves scientific understanding of the world and rejection of any thought which is scientifically questionable (Gottlieb, S., Dacher, K., & Tania, L., 2018).

Hope next time, you are advised to not to be emotional while making any significant life decision you can say “hell ya !I will take care of it, I just have to choose one of them which is required now other emotions can wait for a while .”

Be mindful, choose wisely with your emotions :).

Happy decision making!

About the Author

Smriti Pathak
Assistant Professor.

Ms Smriti Pathak is an Assistant Professor.

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