FEELING DRIVES MORAL BEHAVIOR

Jonah Lehrer, contributing editor for Wired magazine and writer for other publications like the NYTimes, author of “Proust Was a Neuroscientist” and recently “How We Decide”  successfully saddles knowledge of the scientific world and the more abstract part of life: emotions. He maintains that emotions are generated by experience and are an integral part of our decision making process.

How We Decide

The link above is to a presentation he made on “How We Decide” recently after his book was published. Chapter 3, of 20 chapters (you can skip to each chapter of the video according to what topic you are interested in hearing) describes a patient, Elliot, who had life saving brain surgery which was successful in most arenas – Elliot maintained his language skills, could count, speak, reason. But he was left with one negative side effect,  he lost all ability to experience emotion.  He couldn’t feel happiness or sadness: he became emotionally colorless. This led to a devastating change in his daily life. It took him immense amount of time to choose what he wanted to eat, what to wear. He became ‘pathologically indecisive’ – everyday decisions became time sucking obstacles.

This case helps prove that our lives are largely guided by a “subterranean world” of emotions, whether or not we are conscious of their activity. And this transcends mundane decision making to more meaningful choices, to moral choices. It’s fascinating that in a world whose history has placed precedent upon Platonic reason, it is really the emotions that are integral to decision making.

Check out his presentation, he gives a lot of interesting cases that open your vision to this topic.

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