The Science Behind Our Decisions

The plague of indecision is one of the most ubiquitous concepts that populate the minds of humans in their everyday lives. What movie should we watch? What pair of shoes should you get? Is this cereal really better than the other? Constantly throughout the course of our days we come across these crossroads of uncertainty and hesitate when the time has come to choose a path.
Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscientist from Columbia University, had the same issue when he stood in front of the cereal aisle and decided it was time to unravel the science of what ultimately sways us from one side to the other,
“For too long, people have disparaged the emotional brain, blaming our feelings for all our mistakes. The truth is far more interesting. What we discover when we look at the brain is that the horses and the charioteer depend upon each other. If it weren’t for our emotions, reason wouldn’t exist at all."
He emphasizes that the key lies in the prefrontal cortex of our brains. It is in this section of our gray matters that emotions take place. And it is through these emotions, that our subconscious is analyzing more data than we can rationally manage to.
“These wise yet inexplicable feelings are an essential part of the decision-making process. Even when we think we know nothing, our brains know something. That’s what are feelings are trying to tell us.”
An expert for example, has no need of long spreadsheets with the pros and cons of a particular scenario to ensue with a decision. He does not systematically compare all possible options, or for that matter consciously analyze all the relevant information required to make an educated guess. “Instead, the expert naturally depends on the emotions generated by his dopamine neurons. His prediction errors have been translated into useful knowledge, which allows him to tap into a set of accurate feelings he can’t begin to explain.”

But we must tread with caution. We should not always rely on our emotions. Our feelings may sometimes betray us. For example it is said that the pain of loss is approximately twice as potent, as the pleasure generated by a gain. That is why when we get a bad beat in poker we sometimes follow up with a string of inaccurate decisions. Instead, we must create a balance by knowing what influences our decision and to what extent.

In retrospect, listen to your feelings, they know more than you think. But remember always with a grain of salt!
Pictures via goodfoot42
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