PURPOSE of Emotions : Decisions (Part 1)

Smusical notes 4

– what if it’s the wrong choice?

PREVIOUS: For Prediction

Article: The Role of Emotion”  



• Decision-making is about evaluating & achieving goals, & the most meaningful ones are combined with strong emotional tags. Scientific studies have established that the role of Emotion in DM is biologically extensive & complex, & therefore indispensable.

Areas of the brain used for thinking are also thoroughly connected to emotions, as can be seen in people with severe frontal lobe damage. They are left with an inability to make practical & social choices, even though they still have all the information & skills need. Their damage isn’t in memory or intelligence, but rather the neural connections between emotional & cognitive centers of the brain.

• Antonio Damasio (Prof of Neuroscience, CA) suggests we have emotional processes called “somatic markers” made by strong chemical connections between events that are important to us and the emotions they induce. These markers are stored in a section of the prefrontal cortex (the whole section normally associated with rationally thinking).

When facing complex or conflicting choices, we may become overwhelmed by too many options & not be able to decide using logic alone. Somatic markers can then simplify things by focusing our attention on specifically useful & desirable options. (Emotional DecisionsSomatic Markers Hypothesis )

CHOOSING – When figuring out something or make a decision, WE:
Consciously : use cognitive functions (thinking) via the rational cortex, which takes at least 0.1 seconds to get going. This level of DM is based on the principle of utility, where the value of each option is assessed by its cost-benefit to us or a loved one.
EXP : Stopping oneself from crossing a busy street when the light is yellow

Unconsciously : also react from our emotions, especially under stress, such as in heated arguments or when in immediate danger. Es happen almost instantly, so it’s much harder to notice & be in charge of them!
EXP : Saying something inappropriate to the boss as a knee jerk reaction

Directly : Es stimulate our brains to deal with input very quickly or in specific ways. If we process info by disregarding facts, common-sense or circumstances, we can easily end up coming to wrong conclusions, & therefore take inappropriate actions
EXP : Callingimages-4 an old lover who’s made it clear she/he’s not interested

Indirectly : observing ourselves react emotionally to unpleasant encounters, noticing what we think about doing, & remember what has happened before. We learn from experience & adapt our actions accordingly.
EXP : Feeling love for an abusive ex, but knowing it’s not safe to reconnect.
Wanting to hit someone who insulted us, but don’t

• If we do something that harms us or contradicts our values, our Es will let us know – so we need to pay attention. Even when we’re just imagining what might happen, our Es are still triggered, & hopefully we always use them as a guide in picking the best options available.
Studies show that when people’s emotional connections are severed in the brain, they can’t make even simple decisions, because they don’t know how they feel about the possibilities they have to choose from. SO don’t complain about having Es!

Some influences on Decision Making (DM)
Anticipatory Emotions (before an event):
Neg: E. anxiety & mental worry about not knowing how to decide, making the wrong choice, not having enough info…. OR
Pos: pleasure & excitement about having attractive options, not knowing for sure but willing to take a chance/ risk, hoping to learn or experience something new….

Anticipated Emotions (after an event):
Neg: fear, guilt, anxiety about what will happen as a result of our decision – being rejected, causing more problems, not getting what we want….. OR
Pos: relief, wonder, excitement about the potential benefits of the choice made – leaving a bad relationship, going to a longed-for event, choosing between desirable job offers….

NEXT: Decisions #2

4 thoughts on “PURPOSE of Emotions : Decisions (Part 1)

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