Monday, July 03, 2006

Emotion, critical thinking, decision making, and going with gut feeling

Research from the cognitive sciences has begun to validate certain things we suspect from everyday experience when it comes to our political commitments. Emotion overrides logic and critical thinking when assessing our political opinions against those of our opponents.

Cognitive science also tells us that emotion is required to make ordinary decisions. Patients suffering brain damage to certain emotion generating areas of the brain cannot make even the most basic decisions. One can imagine that this would be so since arriving at quick decisions has survival value.

What may have been a benign and useful function of the brain, now proves problematic when making complex political decisions. We go with our gut feeling in the face of big inconsistencies with our sets of beliefs. Logic and critical thinking do not come as naturally to us as emotion. Events often go disastrously wrong because of this.

Going with our gut is no longer as admirable as it once was 100,000 years ago.

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