Reason vs. Emotions: How do make decisions?

Reason vs. Emotions: How do make decisions?

Decisions, decisions. We all make them – from the time we choose our socks in the morning to the moment we decide to turn off Netflix (or close a book) and go to sleep. But, how do people make decisions? What role do reason, emotions or pressure from the environment play?

If you are thinking that your actions are decided by reason only, you will be surprised. Most decisions are made emotionally. It’s possible that the reason is that the part of the brain that is responsible for reason, planning, or logical reasoning is the very last one that has developed.

The brain of each of us has three main parts. The oldest is the so-called reptilian brain, which is responsible for instincts.

A little later, our ancestors developed a limbic system responsible for emotions, and much later we added the youngest part of our brain, the neocortex, which is responsible for a reason. As we can see, from evolution‘s point of view, the reason is not the most important thing.

What is decision making?

Decision making is a process in which a person or a team chooses from all possible options. The best choice is the one that best fits the ideal characteristics.
An example of such a decision is the purchase of new shoes. You choose by price, color, style, comfort and more. You are limited by the options you have and often other factors, such as money. Before making a decision, you apply various decision-making procedures and consider the pros and cons.

How to start?

  • Identify the problem: getting information about the problem is important. By thinking, you find out what exactly do you need to decide, which question you need to answer. You seek connections and think about the consequences of your actions.

  • Benchmarking: this involves identifying different contexts and how do the options fit you? At this point, it is important to know the necessary facts and basic and non-negotiable preferences.

5 decision styles – which one is yours?

According to Suzanne Scott and Reginald Bruce, there are generally five decision-making styles that vary according to context and situation.

  1. Rationality-focused: search for all possibilities and information before a decision is made. For instance, when looking for a new job, you assess the current job, examine the positions offered, and find out what would be better for you to stay or not.
  2. Intuitive style: belief in your own feelings and intuition. We act instinctively without hesitating for and against.

  3. Dependency: a situation where you cannot make decisions on your own but needs advice and suggestions from other people. You ask friends, family or colleagues.

  4. Avoidance: diverting the responsibility for the decision from yourself and giving to someone else who makes the decision for you.

  5. Spontaneity: the decision is made spontaneously without any great research or deliberating. You like one option, so you decide on it and don’t compare it too much.

There is no correct decision

Many people today have trouble making a decision in general. There are so many opportunities, possibilities and (often contradictory information)! Often we stress ourselves by expecting to be able to make the one and only correct decision. But this is not possible! Why? The 100% correct decision does not exist.

There are only wise and evidence-based decisions that will allow us to move forward and open up new doors and knowledge. An integral part of this is to understand the process itself and use it to make a better decision next time.

We make decisions more with emotion than with reason

Our brain evolved gradually so it is quite logical that the connection from the older limbic system to the newer neocortex is more powerful and also more frequent than in the opposite direction. Our actions are much more influenced by emotions than by reason – hence binge shopping, emotional eating, having one more beer and staying with partners we know are no good for us. 

Emotions exist in the present and allow us to feel instant gratification, while reason is future-oriented. Even though now we are still using our brains to rationalize our emotion-based decisions, it’s the reason that distinguishes us more from other animals.

Train your brain and your team

Fortunately, the ability to make better decisions can also be trained. Sometimes it's a good idea to leave emotion and feelings aside and look at our options in a reasonable way as possible.

You can train your decision making under pressure with different team building games and have fun with your colleagues, too!