27 January 2009

Logic and emotion in decision-making

Jonah Lehrer makes sense and scares the hell out of me:

Ever since the time of the ancient Greeks, we've assumed that humans are rational creatures. When we make a decision, we are supposed to consciously analyze the alternatives and carefully weigh the pros and cons. This simple idea underlies the philosophies of Plato and Descartes; it forms the foundation of modern economics; it drove decades of research in cognitive science. Over time, rationality came to define us. It was, simply put, what made us human. There's only one problem with this assumption: it's wrong. It's not how the brain works. For the first time in human history, we can look inside our brain and see how we think. It turns out that we weren't engineered to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment.
Lehrer's new book How We Decide elaborates on what we think when we make decisions.

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