Dec 28

Lets get emotional

Delhi Protests . (Source Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal)

The recent horrific rape and the subsequent protests have led to many emotional outbursts. Anger, Fear, Disappointment, Frustration, Anxiety, Hope..its been a wild ride of emotions. As expected, many have appealed for calm and a need for a ‘Rational’ and ‘Deliberate’ debate. And that we should not let emotions rule our decisions. The underlying belief is that we are rational, intelligent people who will analyze pros and cons and take decisions that can satisfy all stakeholders.

We think emotions lead to bad decisions and that we are capable of wishing them away.  The only problem with this intelligent sounding argument is that it is largely flawed, on various counts.

Evidence from Neuroscience and Behavioural Sciences suggests that our decision making is largely a non-conscious process. And that Emotions play a much bigger role than we think. Scientists say people with damaged emotional circuits in their brains cannot even take simple decisions, decisions like what time to meet and where to meet, leave alone life altering decisions.

Emotions, apparently are particularly useful when making tough decisions. Like choosing a life partner. There is no checklist or a deliberate analysis. We are guided by our emotions.

Moreover, Emotions lead to action where statistics struggle to. Look at the fund raising campaigns of successful charities. They do not present facts but narrate stories of individuals. These stories are personal and emotional. They lead to higher donations.

Emotions enhance learning as they strengthen associated memories. Neuroscientists say that the emotions are so intelligent that they’ve managed to turn mistakes in to educational events and that these capture the wisdom of experience.

And finally, Emotions are things that happen to us rather than those we wish to occur. Not that every emotion moderated decision is a good one, but what choice do we have ? We are wired to rely on emotions lot more than on objective analysis.

Therefore, a rational debate is unlikely to lead to any action because the complex nature of the problem will seem unsolvable. And those taking the final decisions are biased by their own emotions and beliefs. Two people can look at same piece of data and have differing interpretations. So, we cannot have a perfectly objective and rational decision in spite of best of our intentions.

So, I say, lets get emotional and stay emotional. Thats a scientific way to action.

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