Most people know that emotions have a big impact on their decisions. However, few realize how important emotions are in the decision-making process. People strongly believe that they make the best decisions without emotional interference. Economists and accountants stand firm in this belief – the best decisions are made with pure logic. Even though we are guided by emotions, we are driven by our very lives. Thus, for the most part, emotion expresses its message in our emotions. It is important to note that sensitivity is imprecise due primarily to speed and survival objectives. Speed and efficiency more than compensate for the lack. This is why the emotional system gives so many false signals, causing us to reconsider our responses to see if they are appropriate for a particular situation
First, every emotion begins with an external stimulus, be it a touch or a physical event. That stimulation creates an unconscious sensation in the brain, causing the body to produce hormones. These hormones enter the bloodstream and produce sensations, sometimes negative and sometimes positive. So, to review, it’s motivation, then emotions, then hormones, and finally emotions. In other words, your emotions influence your decision-making process by bringing up certain emotions.
Emotion as an Assessment Tool
New research into brain activity pathways, using fMRI scanning, has helped us understand how emotions are translated into action. We use emotion as an assessment tool and as a guide to action. Dennett (2016) pointed out that psychoanalysis leading to ‘feelings’ is done unconsciously, so just because someone is unaware of an emotion doesn’t mean it doesn’t influence how they behave. With the unconscious being capable of processing 500,000 times more information per second than normal consciousness (Lipton 2015), emotional messages will be decoded quickly and short attention spans indicate this is important. Many emotional issues are not difficult for us, they engage us unconsciously. Some researchers have found that emotions account for up to 90% of decision-making, so it’s important to understand how they affect the choices we make every day.
When faced with tough and difficult decisions, we often experience strong and complex emotions. Many of us don’t want to live with these uncomfortable feelings, so we try to make a decision. But this often leads to bad decisions. We don’t really solve the problem at hand, and often we get worse. It’s an unproductive feedback loop that bookends our decisions with negative emotions.
The process is as simple as taking the time to think about :
- Your emotions when faced with your decision, and
- The emotions you feel when you look at your decision in the mirror
Recent research has revealed a number of positive emotions in decision-making
- Compared to rational decision-making, purely intuitive decision-making is very fast. It is reactive (and often subjective) and can be useful in the face of immediate disaster, or less important decisions.
- Some studies show that a person has an emotional need to respect another person’s life.
- Emotions can provide a means of encoding and blocking experience, enabling rapid response selection. This may explain why judgments of the expert’s “gut” level have high accuracy rates.
- Emotions are potential signals from our minds that give us information about our actual choices. Emotions may be needed to make final decisions that begin with reason, especially when faced with nearly identical alternatives.
- Individuals are concerned with the emotional components of decision-making.
- Emotions often drive us in directions that run counter to our own interests.
- Emotional judgments can also have many negative consequences.
- We make decisions quickly without knowing why and then create logical reasons to justify the poor emotional decision.
- Where clearly important, strong emotions can override rational judgment.
- Instantaneous and uncorrelated emotions can lead to errors through distortion and bias in decisions. In some cases, this can lead to unpredictability and carelessness.
- Predicted emotions can lead to errors because people are subject to systematic errors about how they will feel in the future.
Effects of emotions on decision-making
Studies show the complexity and far-reaching nature of their impact. Some examples of those results are listed below in chronological order
- Decision makers who were made to consider safety concerns that triggered negative emotions in car purchase decisions were more likely to be “choosing” or sticking with the status quo Study participants who felt “frustrated rage” took greater risk, reward the size of the lottery was handled and the lottery usually chose an alternative – an alternative that the authors considered “self-defeating”.
- “Fearful people made pessimistic judgments about future events while angry people made optimistic judgments.”
- Participants in the study who were forced to feel distress could be offered a lower price for the item they were asked to sell; Analysts suggest that the auctions will change the mood of participants and may lead to positive changes in their attitudes.
- Participants with “normal emotion regulation” performed card-drawing tasks. Participants with brain damage who failed to detect such emotional responses when they subsequently made safe and rewarding choices when they withdrew from the “dangerous deck” experienced a loss of consequences and associated negative emotions did not change their behavior in this way.
Decision solutions must address the emotional and rational aspects of our personality Because there doesn’t seem to be any mindset that gets one into the right frame of mind that, well, you make up your mind.
How can emotions and rational thinking be used effectively?
- Wait for your own reply—although this can be difficult when the complete email response is burning in your draft folder. You can also try to reframe the situation, such as viewing the layoff as an opportunity to finally achieve your lifelong goal, rather than a catastrophic failure
- Listen to your head and your instincts. Emotions often try to give you something to consider when making decisions. Think of it as anger. Anger makes people take more risks and underestimate how dangerous those risks will be. But it may also be trying to tell you that you are behaving badly and that you need to do something about it. If you listen to the anger, but use your head to find a way to be harsh without being abrasive, you’ll have more of a chance and be heard.
- Unrelated emotions are also affected. Make sure that an object in your current emotional state due to unrelated factors –like emotions from an unrelated event, the weather, or your depression due to an epidemic– doesn’t color you your analysis of the expected results
- Make a rubric to consider a decision about everything that is important to you. Several years ago Kurt Levine called that process Force-Field Analysis and proposed a list of driving and resisting factors. Then give each of them a goal and calculate the results.
Emotions are an important factor in our decision-making process. Emotions can lead us to make poor decisions sometimes, but they also help us to make better decisions in a variety of ways. By understanding the reason behind our emotions and managing them well , one can make more informed and effective decisions in different aspects of our lives.