Logic and Emotion
Delving into the logical and emotional sides of the human brain.
Posted Jul 12, 2012
Decisions are an integral component of our daily lives. On any given day, one could assume we are faced with something like 18 different detergents at the convenience store, four coffee cafes within blocks of each other, and millions of virtual faces around the world to consider befriending. With all of these desirable options staring into our souls, have you ever wondered why or how humans make both the simple and complex choices we do? Why do we decide to marry or stay single? Why do we choose one profession over another? With what mental strategy do we pick a restaurant for our friend's birthday? And what drives a person's desire to indulge in one activity versus another?
It is impossible to quantify the countless decisions we make in one day, since they range from mundane choices, like whether to sit on the sofa or the chair, to as profound as asking someone for their hand in marriage, signing escrow papers, or accepting a job offer across the country. Though these choices may seem insignificant, they are actually adding up, over time, to equal our destinies.
Welcome to "The Divided Brain." My name is Michael Levine, and I welcome you to join me every couple of weeks to further delve into this illuminating topic. As founder of one of the country's most prominent entertainment PR firms for the past 30 years, LCO (Levine Communications Office) in Beverly Hills, I have had the pleasure of representing more than 70 Academy Award and Grammy winners and over 40 New York Times best-sellers; I am also the author of 19 books on topics ranging from PR to self-help to success. My experience with the human psyche, as well as dealing with corporations around the globe, makes me particularly fascinated by what appeals to the consumer culture. I'm looking forward to an intriguing dialogue with the bright readers of Psychology Today.
In the journey we are about to embrace together, we will explore the interesting implications of human behavior, as well as the conflict of forming identity—why people are who they are, do what they do, and what experiences, or lack thereof, are catalysts for their decision-making. All human brains have an emotional and logical side. People come in different proportions. Some are poets, and some are accountants, but we all have this in common—an unending strife in which both sides of our brains are locked in conflict at all times. By bringing this topic to light, we will be able to begin to explore this constant Civil Brain War, thus discovering ways to be more cognizant of the processes and improve upon these skills.
Each time we make a choice, it is my belief that our left-brain arm-wrestles with our right. The left (and more pragmatic side) tells us to act logically, while our right puts up a dramatic fight for following the heart's content. Imagine you are at the dealership with an intent to purchase a sparkling new car. What priorities do you have as you begin this task? Walking in the door, you might be leaning towards a fuel-efficient car. Maybe you are concerned about the safety of your newborn. Perhaps you just want to be sure you have a large enough cup holder for that triple espresso macchiato that accompanies you on your daily commute.
Your eye is suddenly caught by a teal coupe. You've never seen a car this color. Its stunning iridescence shimmers in your eye; your heart skips a beat. You picture how happy your wife will be when she sees this beauty, and suddenly your priorities vanish. This is the car you must have. Cup holder? Who needs one? In Beverly Hills, I frequently see these 90-pound women driving around in huge SUV cars, and when I ask them, "Why?" their answer is safety. I don't know why they feel "safe" in an SUV (and why they don't feel safe in Beverly Hills, California), but some factor of their past, maybe even their childhood, makes them feel the need for this subconscious comfort.
It is said that emotions drive 80 percent of the choices Americans make, while practicality and objectivity only represent about 20 percent of decision-making. Oh, and forget about making a decision when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. The acronym "HALT" is exactly the point here: Don't do it! If you make a decision while feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (or God-forbid some combination of more than one of the above), emotion wins 100 percent of the time and will likely push you in the wrong direction. "It is in the moments of decision that your destiny is shaped," according to Tony Robbins, self-help and motivational speaker. So if that's the case, then we better make some good ones!
In a world where 89 percent of all people in America do not believe in love at first sight, and men look at a quality such as cleavage before trustworthiness, a world where people approach others as guilty until proven innocent, instead of innocent until proven guilty—how are we going to be the judges of good, practical decision-making? Especially when it comes to love and dating, a topic we will continue to delve into further. Here's some food for thought. It's been noted that many single people are afflicted with a flaw-omatic, an internal device that detects shortcomings in potential partners. A man could be brilliant and handsome, but he gets discarded because he has a dirty shirt. A woman, who is attractive and profoundly successful at work, get vetoed because she cackles when she laughs. In this "age of anxiety," singles have overly sensitive smoke detectors.
To illustrate this point, there's this wacky story of an affluent man dating three very beautiful women, all of whom are smart, lovely, and accomplished. He is trying with real difficulty to figure out which of these three ladies to marry. A very wise friend advises him to give them each $5,000 and watch what they do with the money. The first of the three women takes the $5,000 and immediately spends it on herself. The second invests the money. And the third spends it on him. Now, the question becomes whom do you think he married?
Let me tell you.
He married his secretary with the surgically enhanced chest. Get the point?
As a lifelong observer of human behavior, particularly in the area of business, a large percentage of the time, emotion wins this ever-going arm wrestle when it comes to purchasing a new car, choosing an item at the supermarket, signing for a new home, or choosing a woman to wed. People purchase or choose what they want, not what they need. When a person is hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, the percentage rockets up to 100 percent of the time. As we begin to put the pieces of the enigma of our brain back together, week by week, we will embark upon a journey of the mind, heart, and soul. Surely after all this lecturing, I hope you'll decide to join me for the ride.