The latest research on decision making may surprise you

If you would like to make decisions more confidently, new research indicates you may want to look in a surprising place – your feelings.  Apparently the pure rationality we’ve thought exclusively essential for good outcomes is not going to lead us to the best decisions unless we also check out ‘how it feels.’

Of course I, purveyor of things emotionally medicinal, loved learning that research is validating the important additional resource we have in the feelings embodied emotion reveals.

I happened upon this exciting research in Jonah Lehrer’s useful book, How We Decide. Lehrer describes how the best decision makers know how and when to use one or both sides of their brains – rational and/or emotional.  It seems our rational brain is woefully limited in the number of factors it can compare and contrast at one time – only about 7 items. Your emotional brain, however, is like a super computer with instant access to an infinite array of data – everything you’ve ever experienced, seen, read, or heard about what you’re considering.

So whenever you’re faced with a familiar seeming decision, no matter how mundane or momentous, be sure, after looking at pros and cons, to drop awareness down into your body in the moment to see how each alternative feels.  However, in situations you’ve never encountered before that’s the time to turn to your rational brain to ‘think up’ a completely novel solution.  Lehrer has some amazing tales to tell about life saving ‘hunches’ and cogitation!

Now, this advice is easier to follow if what feels right is what also ‘thinks’ right. It’s trickier if what rationally looks like the right person to marry, job to take, or suitcase to buy doesn’t feel good but you can’t explain why. It may help to remember other decisions you made where you went with your gut and things turned out well, or went with your head and things turned out badly.

Knowing when to include and trust your feelings involves awareness and patience. Start small by including your emotional brain’s input on something inconsequential…you can always wait on those bigger decisions until things feel and think right.

~ Penelope

This entry was posted in News & Media. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *