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Emotional Decision Making

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019
Posted in leadership

I’ve been reading THINKING FAST AND SLOW by Daniel Kahneman. There is a real risk this blog temporarily becomes flooded by small bits from this fascinating work.

It includes this really interesting tangent on the possible role of emotion in making good decisions. From the author:

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio proposed that people’s emotional evaluations of outcomes, and the bodily states and the approach and avoidance tendancies associated with them, all play a central role in guiding decision making. Damasio and his colleagues have observed that people who do not display the appropriate emotions before they decide, sometimes because of brain damage, also have an impaired ability to make good decisions. An inability to be guided by a “healthy fear” of bad consequences is a disastrous flaw.

(emphasis mine)

I really need to dig into this further. This correlates with a number of software engineers I’ve worked with who often try to discount or deny the role of emotion in their work. As a result they make sub-optimal decisions, often because they can’t rationalize how that decision will impact the humans who intersect with these decisions.

When coaching leaders on big decisions, I often say something like “If you’re not scared, you’re crazy.” Usually this is meant to reassure and build confidence. Perhaps there is a deeper truth here though.

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