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Passionate rationalism: the role of emotion in decision making

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to argue that emotion has a central role to play in rational decision making based on recent research in the neuroanatomy of emotion. As a result, traditional rational decision-making theories, including Herbert Simon's modified model of satisficing that sharply demarcates emotions and values from rationality and rational decision making, need substantial revision. The paper concludes by outlining some central features of a theory of emotional decisions that is biologically more realistic than the traditional rationalist-cognitive model. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper employs contemporary scientific as well as traditional philosophical criteria in its argumentation. Methodologically, it can be described as an example of applying naturalistic philosophy to a central issue of human thought and experience, and how humans are able to value things at all on the basis of their neuroanatomy. Findings ‐ The paper presents some initial features of a new theory of emotional decisions that is biologically more realistic than the traditional rationalist-cognitive model. Originality/value ‐ The significance and originality of this paper lies in the fact that it proposes causal investigations of the real bases for rational decision making as a central human feature which runs counter to conventional wisdom and has far reaching implications for education, to name just one discipline; it demonstrates the importance and necessity of interdisciplinary research; and it outlines an exciting new research agenda that promises to be more productive in terms of understanding and hence planning for, the way in which humans make decisions.
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Keywords: Cognition; Decision making; Epistemology; Individual behaviour

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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