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Exploding Creativity

May 12th, 2010 at 11:19 am

Emotions and Decision Making

This blog entry can be thought of as a continuation of Episode 4: Decision Making and Creativity. As I’ve written recently, I’m reading Management Rewired, by Charles S. Jacobs, which discusses recent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tests of the brain and how that relates to decision making, among other things.

Jacobs writes how fMRI shows a reciprocal connection between the emotional area of the brain, the amygdala, and the seat of our consciousness, the prefrontal cortex, that ensures our decisions are made with emotions, not pure logic and objectivity. It’s more the case that we make decisions based on emotions, and then justify, or rationalize, the decision with logic.

Our emotions are a shorthand for all our previous experiences in our memory, so we can quickly access our stored knowledge when making decisions. I would call this using intuition in decision making. In fact, the more we use processes that remove emotions out of decision making, the more we lose access to our stored knowledge, and the more risky our decisions can be.

As discussed in the podcast episode, part of decision making is the implementation of the decision, which may involve others. Jacobs writes that trying to influence others with logic may not be successful, as everyone is unconsciously driven by emotions, and offers other ways to more successfully influence people that deals with empathy.

What added extra motivation for me to write this blog post was an article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Emotion Drives Many Defaults, which deals exactly with peoples’ emotions when making a very important decision of walking away from their homes. The article says “many of the Americans defaulting on their mortgages are doing so out of anger, fear or despair rather than making a purely sensible decision about their best financial interests.” Some people default on their home loans because they’re struggling financially, of course, but a trend is occurring in which others are furious at their banks or the government for helping others but not them, they feel they’re being treated unfairly, and so feel justified in defaulting. There is also a contagion effect, or what Robert Cialdini defined as social proof in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, in which people who know others who have defaulted feel like they can, too.

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