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Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decisionmaking?

Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decisionmaking?: A Hedgefoxian Perspective

Kathleen D. Vohs
Roy F. Baumeister
George Loewenstein
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 368
  • Book Info
    Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decisionmaking?
    Book Description:

    Philosophers have long tussled over whether moral judgments are the products of logical reasoning or simply emotional reactions. From Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility to the debates of modern psychologists, the question of whether feeling or sober rationality is the better guide to decision making has been a source of controversy. In Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decision Making? Kathleen Vohs, Roy Baumeister, and George Loewenstein lead a group of prominent psychologists and economists in exploring the empirical evidence on how emotions shape judgments and choices. Researchers on emotion and cognition have staked out many extreme positions: viewing emotions as either the driving force behind cognition or its side effect, either an impediment to sound judgment or a guide to wise decisions. The contributors to Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decision Making? provide a richer perspective, exploring the circumstances that shape whether emotions play a harmful or helpful role in decisions. Roy Baumeister, C. Nathan DeWall, and Liqing Zhang show that while an individual’s current emotional state can lead to hasty decisions and self-destructive behavior, anticipating future emotional outcomes can be a helpful guide to making sensible decisions. Eduardo Andrade and Joel Cohen find that a positive mood can negatively affect people’s willingness to act altruistically. Happy people, when made aware of risks associated with altruistic acts, become wary of jeopardizing their own well-being. Benoît Monin, David Pizarro, and Jennifer Beer find that whether emotion or reason matters more in moral evaluation depends on the specific issue in question. Individual characteristics often mediate the effect of emotions on decisions. Catherine Rawn, Nicole Mead, Peter Kerkhof, and Kathleen Vohs find that whether an individual makes a decision based on emotion depends both on the type of decision in question and the individual’s level of self-esteem. And Quinn Kennedy and Mara Mather show that the elderly are better able to regulate their emotions, having learned from experience to anticipate the emotional consequences of their behavior. Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decision Making? represents a significant advance toward a comprehensive theory of emotions and cognition that accounts for the nuances of the mental processes involved. This landmark book will be a stimulus to scholarly debates as well as an informative guide to everyday decisions.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-543-6
    Subjects: Psychology, Economics, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Overview

    • Introduction: The Hedgefox
      (pp. 3-10)
      George Loewenstein, Kathleen D. Vohs and Roy F. Baumeister

      In a perhaps overused metaphor, academics are sometimes classified as ″hedgehogs″ and ″foxes.″ Playing on a famous, albeit somewhat mysterious, statement by the seventh century BC philosopher Archilochus that ″the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,″ the prototypical hedgehog is a system addict on a quest for a unified theory of everything. Foxes, in contrast, have an appreciation of the complexities of reality which prevents them from even entertaining the possibility of any grand unifying scheme.

      Belying their physical image, hedgehogs are the life of the party. They take outrageous positions and push their arguments...

    • 1 Do Emotions Improve or Hinder the Decision Making Process?
      (pp. 11-32)
      Roy F. Baumeister, C. Nathan DeWall and Liqing Zhang

      To arrive at a decision, people use both cognition and emotion. The cognitive aspects of decision making, including the use of such heuristics as availability, representativeness, and anchoring and adjustment, have received considerable attention (Epley and Gilovich 2001; Kahneman, Slovic, and Tversky 1982; Tversky and Kahneman 1974). More recently, social scientists have sought to consider how emotional processes influence decision making. Researchers have to yet to reach a consensus, however, as to whether emotions improve or hinder the decision making process. On the one hand, sometimes emotions impair decision making. A long tradition of folk wisdom suggests that emotions seriously...

  5. Integrative Frameworks

    • 2 Affect-Based Evaluation and Regulation as Mediators of Behavior: The Role of Affect in Risk Taking, Helping, and Eating Patterns
      (pp. 35-68)
      Eduardo B. Andrade and Joel B. Cohen

      Consider the following dilemma: To get people′s attention and motivate action, a charity organization decides to use vivid pictures of orphaned and starving children in Africa along with somber background music. A primary research stream within the affect literature suggests, first, that such stimuli are likely to put people in a bad mood and that bad moods produce mood congruent information retrieval and explanatory attributional processes (for example, ″I guess I didn′t like the appeal″), all of which could work to the disadvantage of the charity. However, a second research stream proposes that people in bad moods pursue strategies likely...

    • 3 Emotional Influence on Decision and Behavior: Stimuli, States, and Subjectivity
      (pp. 69-92)
      Piotr Winkielman and Jennifer L. Trujillo

      Humans are passionate beings whose thoughts, decisions, and actions are shaped by emotion, sometimes with wonderful and sometimes with disastrous consequences. In this chapter we illustrate some of the major ways in which experimental psychologists, including ourselves, conceptualize and investigate basic mechanisms of emotional influence. Our focus is on basic mechanisms as we believe that figuring out the fundamental relation between emotion and cognition is critical for developing systematic accounts of when and how emotion helps or hurts decision making.

      The chapter is organized as follows. We start with some historical observations and then highlight a few conceptual distinctions that...

    • 4 Feeling, Searching, and Preparing: How Affective States Alter Information Seeking
      (pp. 93-116)
      Karen Gasper and Linda M. Isbell

      Individuals make an astonishing number of decisions each day. They decide on mundane matters (what to wear, drink, and read), important matters (whether one has prepared enough for a test, whether to hire a person, and whether one is persuaded by an argument), and occasionally on life-altering matters (whom to marry, where to move, and if one should have children). To help them make these decisions, people can access a seemingly endless amount of information. The simple decision of what to eat for breakfast, for example, might require a person to search the refrigerator, cabinets, and pantry, and to identify...

    • 5 The Role of Personality in Emotion, Judgment, and Decision Making
      (pp. 117-132)
      John M. Zelenski

      Statements about how emotions influence judgment and decision making rarely apply to all persons equally. Individual differences and personality are ubiquitous in these processes, and, as a result, they provide an important context for determining whether emotions help or hurt decision making. Recent judgment and decision making research has incorporated personality, and offers support for the contention that the costs and benefits of emotion often depend on personality. Said another way, in addition to asking when emotions help or hurt decisions, we must also consider for whom they have these effects.

      Personality can influence judgments and decisions in multiple ways....

    • 6 Emotion Is Cognition: An Information-Processing View of the Mind
      (pp. 133-154)
      Robert Oum and Debra Lieberman

      Since the time of Heraclitus in 500 BC, scholars have speculated on and investigated the role that emotions play in shaping human behavior and reasoning abilities. The number of theories of emotion generated since this time is as vast as it is varied: for example, they include David Hume′s view of emotion as ″master over reason″ (Hume 1739), the theory that emotional feelings depend on feedback from the body (James 1884; Lange 1885), cognitive-appraisal theories (for example, Frijda 1986; Lazarus 1991; Schachter 1964; Schachter and Singer 1962), theories of basic universal emotions with associated facial expressions (Tomkins 1963; Izard 1977;...

  6. Specific Mechanisms

    • 7 The Effects of Self-Esteem and Ego Threat on Decision Making
      (pp. 157-182)
      Catherine D. Rawn, Nicole L. Mead, Peter Kerkhof and Kathleen D. Vohs

      It takes a constant stream of interpersonal decision making for people to be liked by others and to like themselves at the same time. Although often being liked and liking oneself go hand in hand, at times people make choices to give up on being liked in order to restore a positive self-image or to temporarily have a less positive self-image to prevent social exclusion. Ego threat and concomitant emotions play a role in interpersonal decision making among people who are low and high in self-esteem. The literature on threats to the self, feelings about the self, and interpersonal perceptions...

    • 8 The Functions of Emotion in Decision Making and Decision Avoidance
      (pp. 183-202)
      Christopher J. Anderson

      Decisions have long been thought to suffer from the irrational influence of emotions. Emotions have been portrayed as an illegitimate factor in legal decisions (Dworkin 1977). Greek and Roman philosophers suggested that people would make better decisions if they minimized the emotional aspect of their inner lives. Most of these views portray ″pure cognition″ (that is, reason) as the primary, normative factor in decision making. Cognition is seen as constructing goals and decisions, and emotion is seen as playing a secondary role, perturbing the processes of reason.

      In considering the interplay between decision, action, and emotion, some alternative roles emerge....

    • 9 Emotion Regulation and Impulse Control: People Succumb to Their Impulses In Order to Feel Better
      (pp. 203-216)
      Matthew T. Gailliot and Dianne M. Tice

      One way in which emotions can affect decisions is by making people think and behave irrationally. In this view, emotion is the direct opposite of reason, causing people to make all sorts of bad decisions. For example, when people are jealous, they may commit crimes of passion, and when they are angry, they express road rage (Loewenstein 1996). Hence, in this view, emotion may lead directly to maladaptive decision making.

      Another view is that emotions are beneficial to decision making. In this view, people make better, more adaptive decisions because of their emotions. For example, after losing one′s money while...

  7. Applications

    • 10 Reason and Emotion in Moral Judgment: Different Prototypes Lead to Different Theories
      (pp. 219-244)
      Benoît Monin, David A. Pizarro and Jennifer S. Beer

      One can not study the relationship between emotions and decisions without including an analysis of moral judgement, both because many significant decisions that individuals make every day involve morality, and because an increasingly influential school of thought stresses the importance of emotions in moral judgement. In fact, one of the major debates in the current study of morality in psychology pits emotion against reason—one side argues that moral judgment follows from emotional reactions, and the other side asserts the role of conscious reasoning in arriving at moral conclusions. The goal of this chapter is not to take sides in...

    • 11 Aging, Affect, and Decision Making
      (pp. 245-266)
      Quinn Kennedy and Mara Mather

      Older adults are faced with complex decisions, particularly medical and financial decisions, which can carry high levels of risk and have important consequences for their quality of life. Do older adults make decisions any differently than younger adults? Decision making involves cognitive and emotional processes that have been shown to change with age; for example, maintaining and manipulating information in working memory (MacPherson, Phillips, and Della Sala 2002), and dealing with the emotional aspects of a decision (Bechara et al. 1999; Blanchard-Fields, Jahnke, and Camp 1995).

      Research shows that emotional goals, such as feeling good in the moment, become more...

    • 12 Affect and Cognition as a Source of Motivation: A New Model and Evidence from Natural Experiments
      (pp. 267-294)
      Lorenz Goette and David Huffman

      When working toward completion of a long-term project, individuals make effort choices. Many important stages in life involve working on such long-term projects; examples include completing an education, working toward a promotion, working out to lose weight, or working to generate the necessary income to pay for an important future expense. All of these examples share the property that completion of the project requires effort exerted over a sustained period of time, sometimes for many years. Progress toward completion is steady, but each day′s effort is only a small step towards completion of the overall project. Until recently, decision research...

    • 13 The Impact of Emotions on Wage Setting and Unemployment
      (pp. 295-314)
      Lorenz Goette and David Huffman

      Traditionally, models of economic decision making assume that individuals are rational and emotionless. However, the neglect of emotion in economic models explains their inability to predict important aggregate outcomes in the labor market. This is demonstrated by the example that far fewer nominal wage cuts are observed in labor markets than are predicted by traditional economic models. Firms frequently cut real wages, or purchasing power, of workers by increasing nominal wages by less than the inflation rate, but they seldom cut nominal wages. This pattern suggests that workers exhibit a special resistance to nominal wage cuts, which is hard to...

    • 14 The Mind and the Body: Subjective Well-Being in an Objective World
      (pp. 315-344)
      Jonathan Levav

      Following an afternoon of intense lovemaking with General Scheisskopf′s wife, Captain Yossarian, the hero of Joseph Heller′sCatch-22, argues with his lover about the role of God in creating life′s miseries.

      Yossarian asks, ″ ′What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?′ ″

      ″ ′Pain?′ ″ she retorts. ″ ′Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.′ ″

      Yossarian replies, ″ ′Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He...

  8. Index
    (pp. 345-358)