People often let their emotions trump their judgment. A recent study probing this in the journal Psychological Science suggests that understanding the source and relevance of emotions can impact how much sway they have over decision-making and affect the willingness to take risks.
“People often make decisions that are influenced by emotions that have nothing to do with the decisions they are making,” said Stéphane Côté, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
“Research has found that we fall prey to this all the time.
“People are driving and it’s frustrating,” said Côté. “They get to work and the emotions they felt in their car influences what they do in their offices. Or they invest money based on emotions that stem from things unrelated to their investments.
“But our investigation reveals that if they have emotional intelligence, they are protected from these biases.”
The study’s first experiment showed that participants with lower levels of emotional understanding allowed anxiety unrelated to decisions they were making about risk influence these decisions. Those with higher emotional intelligence did not.
A separate experiment involving the willingness to sign up for a flu clinic found that people with lower levels of emotional intelligence can also block unrelated emotions from influencing their decisions about risk, simply by making them aware that their anxiety was not related to the decisions at hand.
“The findings suggest that an emotionally intelligent approach to making decisions is if you’re feeling anxious because of something unrelated to the decisions, to not make the decisions right away,” said Côté.
The findings likely apply not only to negative emotions a person may experience but positive ones too, such as excitement.
In fact, the researchers are adamant that people should learn to pay attention only to those feelings that are relevant to the decisions being made is what counts.
“People who are emotionally intelligent don’t remove all emotions from their decision-making,” Côté said. “They remove emotions that have nothing to do with the decision.”
Source: University of Toronto