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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Emotion and Reason as Processes of Decision Making



There has been considerable discussion on emotion and rationality in the workplace. Some have argued that emotionality should always be second to rationality. Yet emotionality allows an opportunity to make quick responses while rationality is a process of reflection that leads to more exact outcomes. Both processes can work together to create accuracy and motivation in way that neither can do alone. 

There are two types of cognitive abilities one of which is related to quick reaction that does not require processing and the other a slower and more reflective process (Kahneman and Frederick, 2002). These are often seen as process 1 and process 2. Process 1 includes quick and automatic determinations like facial recognition while process 2 is more analytical like reflecting on math problems. 

These two processes impact one’s ability to respond to situations and events within our lives. Generally, those with emotional intelligence can delay the “knee jerk” reactions of process 1 to give better responses after using process 2. Under certain circumstances it is better to use process 1 to create efficiency in difficult situations but these should be tapered by the rationality of 2 to be most successful. 

The ability of human beings to reflect means that they also have the ability to learn from the past. It is this constant process of reflection and learning that makes better choices for the future. Those who do not use reflection with the analytical processes of 2 are continually subjected to the control of process 1 based in the heuristics they have developed in their lives. Their responses are automatic and sometimes not accurate.

Reflection and reason have an important function for predicting the likely outcomes of events. Rae writes in 1834 in the work New Principles of Political Economy, “The strength of the intellectual powers, gives rise to reasoning and reflective habits…brings before us the future…in its legitimate force, and urge the propriety of providing for it”.  Our thinking abilities and skills can understand the trends of the future and by aligning individual actions we can meet those challenges. 

As a system the tackling of problems today and focusing on the strategic solution desired in the future creates constant alignment. In organizations, or lives, where individuals wait until the problem is apparent and destructive before finding a solution are constantly stuck in reactive and procrastinate solutions where they are less effective. Knowing where an organization wants to go and solving problems to meet that future position saves considerable headache, poor choices, and resources.

The use of process 1 and process 2 are important for success in business. Those who rely heavily on the quick emotional process 1 will not be able to gauge their responses while those that rely heavily on process 2 will be more accurate in their decisions but will not be able to respond to situations quickly. Knowing how to manage process 1 and process 2 can develop accuracy and effectiveness.  One is not confined to either emotion or rationality but can use both effectively to make effective business decisions.

Kahneman, D. & Fredrick, S. (2002). Representativeness revisited: attribute substitution in intuitive judgement in Hueristics and biases: the psychology of intuitive judgment. T. Gilovich, D. Griffin and D. Kahneman, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 49–81.

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