Radiolab

Navigate
Return Home

Overcome By Emotion

Back to Episode

Instinct or analysis? Wouldn't things be easier if we could get emotion out of the way and let rational analysis lead? Except that so often, that gut feeling turns out to be right. We explore both extremes. Antoine Bechara, a psychology professor at USC, tells us about the case of Elliot, an accountant who, after having a tumor removed from his brain, became entirely rational. And writer Steven Johnson recounts the powerful grip emotion held over his brain in the years following a frightening event.

It turns out we aren't the only ones interested in how the emotional and rational parts of our brains interact to make choices. NPR reporter Mike Pesca talks to Gary Loveman, CEO of Harrah's Casinos, to find out how Harrah's has learned to identify the triggers in casino patrons' decision making processes and use them to create a happier gaming experience, and more loyal customers.

Guests:

Gary Loveman,

Comments [11]

DrSara from South Salem

Sometimes pop psychology simply recycles old chestnuts - and avoids complexity. There is no modern utility in the old emotion vs logic dichotomy. It has become a naive metaphor. Recycled structural theory (Freud's I'd, ego superego model) will always contain bits of valuable concepts, but adds little.
Neural assemblies, emotional modulation (median raphe nucleus), the sorting of memory valence- all sorts of models help conceptualize our thinking. Data is not meaning; events do not create coherent experience.
Perhaps radio lab should invite ian McGilchrist who writes with more nuance about the old right vs left brain idea.
He cites the crucial interdependence of the implementing functions and the contextuslizing ones.
Choice is full of nuance. Our psychological structures are very hard to honor in reductionist ( albeit it clever glib ...) presentations.
Say interesting things with humility & a smidgen of wise unknowing.

Jan. 03 2015 12:46 PM
Michael Russell from United States

1st - Star Trek's Mr. Spock isn't purely logical (neither are Vulcans), he strives to be logical, but actually has stronger feelings than humans, that's how the Vulcans figured out that making decisions to act based upon emotion is so dangerous.

2nd - emotions are fine for MOTIVATION, they just aren't good for decision making (in most cases). Emotions are Instincts, and instincts are hard wired mechanical reactions designed into living organisms by evolution for survival. Our brains evolved frontal lobes to model the universe and predict the future through pattern recognition, this led to self-awareness, and then conscious free-will. We are the only animal with this unique ability to reason out the future consequences of our actions, and then choose to act, either with or without emotional input.

It's still OK to make emotional decisions when choosing who to love, or marry. But you likely need to monitor your emotions when making a choice about what to eat, or how fast to drive. Listen to you lizard brain, and rationally choose the best action to achieve your goals, but even the goals you choose are motivated by subjective emotional feelings.

Jan. 03 2015 01:48 AM

Of course, by what Robert Krulwich refers to as the "Dr. Spock advantage" he means the "Mr. Spock advantage"!

Apr. 21 2013 12:57 PM
bestia4casino from United States

And writer Steven Johnson recounts the powerful grip emotion held over his brain in the years following a frightening event. I never listened to the shows before but thought it was very interseting. I could understand in the beginning anout being rational it is hard for people to make decisions and alot of people are indesive but dont know if something is wrong with them. At the end it is true about the two dollars it seems like people would choose that over the dollar. I would take the two dollars two. I was weighting many factors and this went on for weeks. If the coin flip is tails they pay a dollar and if its heads they win a two dollars. It just gets to the point where taking the risk is seemingly worth the possible gain. Always makes me want to read more on the subject. You cannot interpret it as winning is feeling twice as good as losing. We have all met people with varying abilities with each of these two talents even though as with most human qualities a surfeit of one seems to overshadow others. Cut your options in half by removing them from the parameters. select a small hearty set of moves which you can then master. You will always be tempted by the newest toy. This is what they mean when they say you learn a discipline. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. It has happened to me several times. More information about Sloan at www.Hello gals, - for many of you who gamble a few bucks to win thousands: here is a good online site which processes Canadian players and gives away 100% money back casino bonus and 20$ no deposit casino bonus to each new player. They also offer blackjack, video poker, slot machines, roulette & other 300+ virtual casino games playable.
Previous Wednesday I cashed almost 1,000$ there, and the withdrawal was easy and rapid. Highly advised: casino games free no blog

Jul. 08 2011 12:24 PM
Christina from Addison, IL

I really liked the sound effects. I never listened to the shows before but thought it was very interseting. I could understand in the beginning anout being rational it is hard for people to make decisions and alot of people are indesive but dont know if something is wrong with them. At the end it is true about the two dollars it seems like people would choose that over the dollar. I would take the two dollars two.

Jun. 29 2009 07:37 PM
brian crts

I couldn't decide which laptop top to buy, a PC or the new aluminum Mac. I was weighting many factors and this went on for weeks. It consumed me.

After hearing that we can never be truly rational, I went with my emotional mind, and this got me out of the rut.

I said YES! to the Mac.

Mar. 31 2009 10:11 PM
Elizabeth from Boston

What is the song that plays in the background while people are being asked about the coin toss? It was also in the background when WNYC used Jad for the pledge intros to mp3 downloads in the fall drive of 2006.

I've been interested in it since then, but don't have any clue how to find it.

Thanks.

Nov. 30 2008 08:58 PM
luke perkin from uk

Well yeah. If the coin flip is tails they pay a dollar and if its heads they win a two dollars.
They either win or lose. There is no long run. It just gets to the point where taking the risk is seemingly worth the possible gain.

Btw I really enjoyed your podcast and i've listened to many other. Always makes me want to read more on the subject.

Nov. 25 2008 06:17 PM
Alvin Leung from San Jose

Your experiment of gambling on flipping coin. With 2 to 1 odd, it is a break even point (ie, the player in the long run will not lost) that is why people start playing the game. You cannot interpret it as winning is feeling twice as good as losing.

Nov. 20 2008 03:38 PM
Frank A. Nymeyer from Carlsbad, NM

You seem to be positing this: because Elliot was viewing the world only rationally, he would spend irrational lengths of time weighing pros and cons of trivial outcomes. That is not logical. Man! Illogic makes me angry! The poor guy had brain injuries, I don't think Spock V Doc is required to explain that he had subsequent problems.

It is not so obvious to me that those potentials are opposites or require balancing. We have all met people with varying abilities with each of these two talents even though as with most human qualities a surfeit of one seems to overshadow others.

Emotion and logic are both survival mechanisms added and modified during different stages in our evolution. I think of it like this:
Intelligence is a hat a monkey put on to keep some of the rain off.
A monkey is a shirt a fish put on to keep from drying out in the sun.

Bafflement over lack of awareness of motivation for some of one's behaviors is the hat's bewilderment by what it might have been thinking when the monkey scratched his butt or when the fish turned upstream to spawn.

I love your shows. I really dig the music/sound effects you employ.

Thanks,

Nov. 19 2008 03:27 PM
ume remembers from earth

I am conceptual artist working across a vast spectra of mediums. I learned early on, as I began working with computer based video samplers, and as I started creating electronic music, that you must set limits. Cut your options in half by removing them from the parameters. select a small hearty set of moves which you can then master. You will always be tempted by the newest toy. This is what they mean when they say you learn a discipline.
It's not about me, it's about you and me. It's not something original to me, it's something remembered. With a little effort, you can remember it too.

umeremembers.blogspot.com

Nov. 17 2008 04:14 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.