chapter  12
Acting on Emotion
Pages 14

Of course, evaluations of the consequences of our choices may have been computed at some time earlier and our current feelings could be a reflection of those more elaborate evaluative processes, or alternatively, these evaluations may have been communicated to us by others, but the point here is that on a day-to-day basis we are more likely to act on how we feel about things than on explicit reasoning about the consequences. Moreover, it has long been known that we often lack the ability and the motivation for making all these calculations: we are only rational within the limits of our cognitive capacities (bounded rationality) and we often settle for outcomes that are good enough (satisficing), instead of aiming to maximize our outcomes (Simon, 1955, 1956). A recent review that centered on the question of whether conscious thoughts cause behavior concluded that its influence has often been overstated (Baumeister, Masicampo, & Vohs, 2011). Conscious deliberations do exist, but also often as a result of behavior, revealing the fact that rational choice is not very plausible if this refers to the process of making decisions. Importantly, the fact that we often turn to simpler choice strategies (such as relying on our feelings) has a big advantage. Especially under time pressure, these strategies may often outperform rational calculation because they are more efficient (Payne, Bettman, & Johnson, 1993). Thus, our bounded rationality may be helped by the fact that we have emotion. One of the things that emotion does is restrict the size of the consideration set (the alternatives that we inspect seriously)

and focus the decision maker on certain relevant aspects of the alternative courses of action (Hanoch, 2001). Also, emotion helps in assigning value to objects and alternatives (they indicate what we find important) and may help us to obtain those by providing the motivation for doing so. Put differently, emotions often steer our choices and may do so more efficiently than rational evaluation of the options and their consequences.