25 Dec 2011

How Emotional Are We Humans Really?

I was reflecting on the Sharad Pawar slapgate incident. Now, this is not the 1st time he’s been ill treated in public. Do we remember the ICC Champions Trophy some years ago when the Australian Cricket Team pushed Pawar off stage in public? He laughed off the ICC CT incident. A lot of us were outraged at that incident, but were delighted slapgate occured. Now while we despise Sharad Pawar, a lot of us secretly want to be like him to a small extent. We do not want act unethically, but we have to doff our hats to the guy who has his fingers in almost every business in the country (and a lot outside also).

Sharad Pawar slapgate
The differentiator, dear reader, is emotion. Ever noticed how we humans get carried away by something that delights or infuriates us? We’re either over the moon celebrating or up in arms dropping everything else. We have witnessed numerous instances of people taking to the streets, burning effigies and holding demonstrations for bad performances by cricket teams, players not being picked, poor umpiring, etc. Sharad Pawar’s minions and sycophants conducted such protests when slapgate occurred (surprised they didn’t go to Australia and protest the team’s behaviour towards Pawar saaheb), but did we see Pawar even bat an eyelid?  Richard Thaler, in his book NUDGE, states that very few humans respond to incentive while making a decision, while most of us react emotionally. James Brauer, in an excellent article here, says that the best way to have our idea shared is to appeal emotionally to the audience. Often, he says, people share content if they have emotionally connected with it. The best marketers manage to have their products sold by connecting emotionally with their target groups. So that means that we focus less on actual matter and more on emotional appeal. I wonder, is that how it should really be?

People who get emotional about events and incidents generally take decisions which are counter productive. They even might end up doing ineffective things rather than focus on something constructive. Actions like pelting cricketers' houses with stones and burning effigies when the team performs dismally are purely emotion driven and achieve nothing. Ditto for politicians' minions who conduct morchas if they are hurt over some petty caste sentiment. Then again, these pathetic actions are probably conducted by them to influence the emotional side of others; a side which substantially impacts decision making for most humans. And those who support these politicians due to such shameless actions are again taking emotional decisions.

I am not trying to admonish any action here neither am I trying to downplay the events that actually make a difference. I simply wonder how we humans can combine our emotional and logical side. Noted authors Richard Thaler and Dan Ariely believe all of us have both sides to our personality. History has shown that people like Einstein, Gandhi, Dhoni, Schumaker, and the likes have been very successful in making decisions because they allowed logic to dominate their mind, although they might have portrayed that they were emotionally swayed during something critical.

If we increase the amount of logic in our daily lives and reduce emotion, we'll experience a lot of improvement in our lives. Emotion blinds us to shortcomings and faults of loved ones, prohibits us from arbitrarily sorting issues, prevents us from seeing how we can benefit from many decisions... keeps us from visualizing the bigger picture. While it's important to have a splash of emotion in our lives, increased use of logic will further reward us. After all, we've been gifted with a developed brain. We need to use it better!


  1. Vishal, to add to your point, we make decisions (all of them) emotionally. There is logic involved too, but emotions pay a huge part, especially for Indians. Pure logic will lead us to one path, we may select a totally different path by including emotions.

    Nice thought buddy :)

  2. Very true, Binu. Thanks for raising the point.

  3. I feel emotions are an integral part of being human. so, such reaction are bound to happen. and I further believe that the essence of this life will be lost the day we detach emotions from us. I think we should go with the flow and let emotions be the way they are!

  4. your last paragraph has it all...and as explained by Binu, it takes some part of logic behind that emotional decision..

    stay connected!!!
    its me!!! sharan :)

  5. *¬* "says that the best way to have our idea shared is to appeal emotionally to the audience. "

    - I totally agree.

  6. all presidents should be like that.. hehe. and business men too. :) I like our current president.. he's got an actress sister, and he tries to use that to know what the civilians needs and wants.

  7. @Purvesh, while I agree that emotions are invaluable, a little more logic will help our decisions become a lot better.

    Nenehfer and Sharan, thanks for your comments...

  8. Almost all of us want to be like him, in a way or other. True, very true.
    As far as decision making is concerned, I have not seen a single individual who is not governed by emotion, only the amount of emotion involved differs.
    Story in pieces

  9. Perfect observations vishal,We Indians mostly think thru our hearts and many of our decisions do not have any logic , Point in question is demonstrated by the kind of discourse we see on the net. We have been granted a great freedom denied to many across the world and see how we misuse it by extreme emotional rants devoid of any logic

  10. well written and good selection of words :)
    emotion is there with every human being, few hides it but many expresses it !
    well observed !

  11. Yes so true..I have been trying so hard to not think emotionally while taking decisions but most of the times, it backfires..very nicely written..

  12. Thanks guys, for your comments. :)


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