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How Emotions Affect Decisions

Influence Of Emotions In Decision-Making?

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Emotions are directly linked to certain sections of the brain. Decisions like saving money and eating healthy may seem purely logical, but they are actually emotional. Emotions influence decision-making in many different ways depending on the type of emotion. For example, people who are worried about making a bad decision are more like to “choose not to choose”. Also, the happier people are, the less likely they are to decide to gamble. And when people are sad, they are more likely to choose high-risk high-reward options. Whereas people who are scared will be more likely to choose low-risk low-reward option. Another example is that anger will reduce sensitivity to risk in the same way as optimism. Different parts of the mind are activated and deactivated based off which category of

emotions are experienced. What Would Happen If We Didn’t Have Emotions?

People who take a long time to ensure that they make “unemotional decisions” still often feel they didn’t choose correctly. You may hear that feelings negate reasoning; however, they are actually needed to make a proper decision. Without emotions there is too much reasoning for our brain, this makes decision-making almost impossible. A study was done on brain damaged patients with impaired emotions. The study showed that they did not learn from their past decisions, effectively making the same bad decision over and over. The decisions made without emotions also took far too long. Decisions are impossible without feelings (a.k.a. somatic markers). Therefore, it is very poor advice when someone tells you to make an “unemotional decision”. Instead, people should suggest that you consider the decision from as many emotional perspectives as needed before settling on a final decision. Too much reasoning leads to no decision (this is commonly referred to as paralysis of analysis). How Anticipating Our Feelings Help Our Decision-Making?

Appearance comparison of a woman feeling six different emotions

Immediate emotions are real, and anticipated emotions are only imagined. Anticipating emotions occur when there are two or more possible future outcomes. For this, there are two factors to weigh in when making decisions. Firstly, considering how you currently feel about the situation. Secondly, anticipating the future emotion that you will feel. There is still a comparable level of worry when you are anticipating an emotion as opposed to when they are really feeling it, this helps promote more thorough and careful decisions. The length of time until the projected outcome increases the amount of worry (i.e., the shorter the time, the higher the worry).

How Comparing Possible Outcomes Shape Our Feelings? Decisions made with two or more possible outcomes will produce a different emotion than decisions that lead to one possible outcome (no alternative outcome to compare). We are constantly comparing outcomes of our decisions with other possible outcome. At the Olympics, bronze medalist are overall more satisfied than silver medalists. Silver medalists were more likely to experience feelings of missing out. Emotions will change based off how appealing you perceive the alternatives to be. Moreover, different parts of our brain activate when accepting an unfair proposal versus rejecting one. When people make a decision and receive a loss, they feel worse than they otherwise would have if the did not pick. This is common phenomenon when people choose a lottery ticket. In a game where you have a medium chance to win $40 and a low chance to win $100, winning the $100 will be compared with the expected $40. People might rationalise by saying “I was going to get the $40 for sure anyway”, when in reality it was only a medium chance that they would receive it. And, if you choose the $100 and do not win, you may feel regret for not having chose the $40 with a higher chance to win.

A graph showing a full spectrum of human emotions


Barnes, A. and P. Thagard. 1996. Emotional decisions. Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society pp. 426–429.

Damasio, A. R. (1996). The somatic marker hypothesis and the possible functions of the prefrontal cortex. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B, 351(1346), 1413-1420.

Kant, F. (1991). Remarks on the observations on the feeling of the beautiful and sublime. (J.T. Goldthwait, Trans.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (Original work published 1764). Livet, P. (2010). Rational choice, neuroeconomy and mixed emotions. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society B, 265, 259-269.

Thagard, Paul and Allison Barnes (1996) Emotional Decisions. Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Erlbaum, 426-429.

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, June 22). Emotions in decision-making. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:59, July 31, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Emotions_in_decision-making&oldid=847021961

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