I’m completely sure that everyone reading this article had a following frustrating experience at least once in their life: during an argument you present the other side with all the possible rational pros and cons of your respective positions, and your own position appears much more advantageous. However the other side doesn’t seem to care about you being objectively right, keeping on saying that “It still doesn’t feel right!”
What is it, an Emotional Bias or a legitimate arguing method? Can you base your decisions on “how it feels” or the only way to do it right is the objective consideration of all possible parameters? Is there even a place for emotions in our decision-making?
Let’s try to answer these questions.
First of all, let’s confess – in many cases WE DO MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON EMOTIONS. The question is: should we be doing that? As counterintuitive as it may seem, there are rational reasons to make decisions emotionally.
First of all, an emotional decision contains the motivation to act as soon as it has been made. The reason for this is that there is a difference between WHAT WE (rationally) NEED and WHAT WE (emotionally) WANT. Someone may know for sure that there is an urgent need to start spending less and saving more, and still do nothing about it. On the other hand, when someone really wants to buy a car, while lacking the required funds, it may immediately lead to a positive change in spending behavior, because emotion means motivation.
Secondly, emotionally-based decisions are sometimes easier to communicate to others, because, again, people do not actually care about what you need, but they can freely identify with what you want by natural comparison to their own desires. Their own desires look pretty important to them, so they are ready to accept that you fired someone because “he was a jerk” – they immediately feel what you felt when you arrived to this decision. In this case, emotion means involvement.
There is also the fact that in many cases we just don’t have the time to consider all available options. Those of our primeval ancestors who pondered too much about the best direction to run from a sabertooth tiger have frequently found themselves impaled on his saber teeth :-). Today, drivers constantly make momentary decisions without systematically weighing their benefits. They do it intuitively.
What’s an intuition, then? It’s a process of emotional preference of a certain scenario based on all experienced scenarios. It’s how animals survive and it’s how we as a type of animal survive. The problem with survival logic is that it reminds us about the difference in distribution of critical traits, such as intuition, between different people. There is no equality in nature and this means that if you are blessed with good intuition – you’re blessed, and if not – you’re pretty much … not blessed 🙂
This brings us to the main disadvantage of emotional decision-making – it’s very hard to train for. Every time you give in to your emotions, there is a risk of Emotional Bias, and according to the assumption of normal distribution, most people would fall into the risk group. Everybody can learn to drive a car because during our training we perform thousands of repetitions of proper way of action, while our constantly growing driving experience provides our intuition with more and more scenarios. One could hardly imagine Managers going through the same level of effort while training their decision–making. Of course, they can have a lot of useful experience, but without proper training its influence is seriously reduced.
What’s important to understand here is that our brain is hardwired for capacity for both rational and emotional decisions, with its right hemisphere being specifically responsible for processing emotions. This means that we cannot simply disregard emotional decision making only because we cannot consistently enhance it by training. The best way seems appreciating the usefulness of its benefits in producing motivation, increasing involvement and reducing reaction time without neglecting the rational decision-making process.
- Risk Assessment model – watch out for Biases!
- Life without biases Part 2: Where do they come from?
- Comparing the incomparable
- How good are you in making decisions? Part 2 – Difference of making decision individually or in a group
- How good are you in making decisions? Part 3 – Manager’s role in the process of making decision