Feelings and Decision Making

Blame Mr. Spock. One of the biggest myths of decision making is if you want to make a good decision, keep your feelings out of it. Spock was all logic and no emotion. But this didn’t always work out for Spock, and it’s practically impossible for us. It turns out that you need emotions to help you make decisions.

Researcher Antonio Demasio discovered this while working with patients with injuries to the part of the brain that generates emotions. (You can watch his interview, When Emotions make Better Decisions, on YouTube.) Being logical and devoid of the experience of emotion left these patients unable to make even a simple decision, such as where to go to dinner.

So what this is telling us is that we need emotions; they give us useful information. The caveat is that emotions can hinder decision making. Strong, overwhelming emotions can decrease your ability to think clearly, and that’s a problem when making a decision. To counter this, you first need to identify which emotions cloud your thinking. It could be anger, jealousy, fear or anxiety. It could also be love. Once you’ve identified these emotions, you can use those feelings as a cue to take a moment to reflect before taking action.

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