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Even Spock needs feelings

We give you a bitesized guide to somatic markers.

 Dan Murray-Serter
Dan Murray-Serter
September 02, 2019
2 min read

Why is it that the most logical decisions are often the hardest - even when you’re channeling your inner Leonard Nimoy?

Because all decisions, even ones that seem clear cut, are emotional.

Hit decisions with all the feels

This week’s science is from a 90s study by neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio (click here for his own take on this whole emotions make better decisions thing) - it may be retro, but still super interesting.

He studied people without amygdalas (the emotion-generation part of the brain), and found that they were unable to make decisions. They could see logically what they should do, but found it stressful to make even a simple decision, such as what to have for lunch.

Mmm. Lunch. What about the amygdala then?

Well, these findings show that, even with a seemingly logical decision - without tapping into our emotions, we can’t bring ourselves to take the plunge and choose.

Get so emotional, baby

This study lead Damasio to come up with the Somatic Marker Hypothesis - one of the most influential theories of emotion from the last few decades (see, told you that 90s research was totes still relevant).

Somatic markers are instinctive emotional reactions based on previous experiences with similar situations. These reactions narrow down your options, which are then processed more thoroughly before a final decision is made. So, somatic markers increase the efficiency and accuracy of decision making. Following Damasio’s theory, without this emotional input, decision making would be pretty much impossible - it would simply take too long to sift through all the options.

Ok got it - can’t make a choice without feelings. So, what?

Think about if you’re trying to convince someone of something, or present your solution as the obvious choice. Using the Somatic Marker Hypothesis, you know that you won’t get the result you want through presenting logic alone. So, take them on a journey - tap into their emotions, and make yours a solution that feels good, as well as makes sense.

Feeling distracted? Check out these three easy steps to making decision.

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