‘Emotion’ the enemy of ‘reason’?


When you are making decisions in your life you will always encounter reason and emotion. This blog post will define what is reason and emotion and how this process actually works. I will provide some guidelines from theory to handle your reason and emotion during decision-making. To put this theory into practice I will answer the question if reason or emotion dominates my decision-making process and if this suits my personality? The decision-making problem that I am facing relates to the choice if I am going to pursue a professional career in Accounting/Strategic Management or to become an entrepreneur and start my own company like I explained in my last blog?

When you are talking about reason and emotion you will always get the feeling that they influence each other. You could say, reason is from the mind and emotion is from the heart. When people are thinking of the process of decision-making they usually think that there is not much room for emotion because thinking rational would optimize utility and including emotion would distort this process. But is this the case?

In the YouTube video below you can see an interesting video by Walt Disney (1943) about Reason and Emotion and how it interacts with each other:

Interesting theory

In the last decades a lot of research has been done on the subject of reason and emotion. One interesting article by P. Zimmerman and J. S Lerner from Harvard University called: The emotional Decision Maker’ makes an interesting statement: ‘’before you can even form a thought, emotions are influencing your judgments’’. And they distinguish two types of emotions namely: Integral Emotions and Incidental emotions. Integral emotions are valid decision inputs from a rational perspective because they arise from your personal judgment and Incidental emotions are a not valid decision input because they come from past events and can influence your present decisions. For example new emotions like fear in new decisions are valid but fear from past decisions can influence new decisions which are not rational valid emotions. The authors came up with three solutions to reduce incidental emotions:

1. Diagnose your emotions

2. Absorb other perspectives.

3. Treat each situation as different

 Their major point is that you cannot simple write off your emotions and that you have first to investigate them thorough before you decide what their role is in your decision-making process.


Coming back to my own experience with reason and emotion and the decision-making problem that I am currently facing which can benefit from the before explained theory. When I am fully thinking rational the logic decision would be to pursue a ‘safe’ career in Accounting because the job has numerous benefits and in the current economic climate it is a safe bet. But my emotion says that I don’t want to do the same thing for the rest of my life stuck behind a desk. My emotion says to just to take the risk and to start my own company. But if you prepare a cost benefit-analysis you will still find that pursuing a professional career is a logic choice. But following the theory of Zimmerman and Lerner, my emotion would be placed in the category of ‘integral emotion’ which is defined as a rational emotion that is a valid input in the ‘cost benefit analysis’.

Does it help me?

Coming back to the statement: ‘Emotion’ the enemy of ‘reason’?, I can conclude this is not always the case. In some decision-making problems, emotion is a valid input and it is therefore not an ‘enemy’ of reason. It can be a valuable aspect to your personal decision making process. So investigate your emotions before you wright them off. Following Zimmerman and Lerner, emotions are ‘time-tested evolutionary adaptions to universal life challenges’. And when I am thinking of my problem, I will for sure investigate my emotions more thorough so I can include them in my rational decision-making process before coming to a final verdict. Does this suit my personality? I am a rational thinker but maybe I have to give my emotion the benefit of the doubt! Like Steve Jobs would say: ‘Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become’.



‘Greed‘ is good?


The ‘in’ famous movie quote ‘greed is good’, from fictional movie character ‘Gordon Gekko’ played by Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street (1987), is one of the most famous movie quotes that still in today’s world has an influence. A reason for the worldwide crisis can be seen in the essence of this quote and can be expressed as all what’s wrong with capitalism by some critics. This blog post will not proceed on the discussion if greed is good or not, but it will focus on a totally different kind of ‘greed’. The greed I am referring to can be best expressed as ‘Academic greed’ versus ‘Social Greed’.

The definition of greed can be explained as an excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions, which can be explained as a selfish desire to have more of something (especially money). As I mentioned before, my blog will not cover this kind of ‘greed’ but it still refers back to the problem of having ‘more’ of something.

In today’s world, academic grades are more important than ever but in consequence, a balanced work (study)-life balance is also becoming more and more important. Today’s new students have a strict deadline to finish their academic study within a short time frame. But as I experienced in my student live, only focusing on your study will not work and in contrast too much social life will also have a bad influence on your grades. This issue is all about setting personal (study) goals and how it will influence decision making. Setting boundaries is an important part of your personal decision making process as it will guide you to the goal you have set. Without a goal or without boundaries (study) life is difficult.


A problem Dutch students often encounter is a lack of focus on their study load which is fed by the ‘culture of mediocrity’, which means that just passing your courses will be more than enough. Off course this culture holds back students and the general feeling of laziness is often associated with students. It is difficult for students to find a match between academic life and social life and with the new experience of freedom of students it becomes even harder to reach your personal goals. Therefor setting boundaries is of a huge importance. I came up with some tips that can help you to find a good balance between your ‘academic greed’ and your ‘social greed’:

–          Define your goals

–          Plan social events around your academic schedule

–          Plan study days

–          When studying don’t get distracted

–          Start studying at the beginning of a course and not at the end before it is too late

–          Set personal deadlines for academic work

–          Plan ‘free time’

From my personal experience finding a balance between social life and academic life is a difficult process but an important one. Have always in mind that decision making is a part of life and without your personal boundaries it will become even harder to reach your goals. And referring back to the ‘greed is good’ quote, having personal ambition will only help in finding your inner self.