XVIII. The Role of Emotions

The degree to which the emotions affect everyday life is greatly underestimated. Most people are of the opinion that, except for the occasional emotional moment, the majority of life is directed by the rational faculties in navigating the daily choices we make. But in truth, most of what we do is driven by feelings, and the logical facilities are not engaged. We may justify things as having been rational in arrears, but in the moment of making a decision we do not consult logic but go with our feelings.

In the great majority of instances, we are not aware of our rational or emotional motivations. We sense that we do things out of habit, when it is more accurate to say that we fall into patterns of behavior that are comfortable - driven to seek pleasant feelings and avoid unpleasant ones. We are in the moment very seldom self-conscious, and do not generally deliberate most choices in the conscious mind.

Psychologists make the case that we are constantly motivated by emotion, but not on a level on which we are aware. We do not concentrate on our emotional state, but it operates as it has become habituated. Though it can also said that we do not concentrate on our intellectual state, and we have habitual behaviors based on logic rather than emotion. So ultimately, we must be conscious of our motives to report them or assess the manner in which we react.

Our judgments are affected by our feelings, particularly when we do not deliberate upon them. Our initial reaction to a person is to like or dislike them without having much information about their character. We respond to the things we perceive about them unconsciously, which generally trigger emotional responses, before we engage the conscious mind. We have to pause and deliberately consider why we like or dislike them - and when we do, we generally apply our logic to justify the basic emotional reaction that we have already experienced.

Thoughts and feelings are so closely intertwined that, ultimately, the two may not be cleanly separated. Our most coldly rational decision is influenced to some degree by our emotions, and our most heated emotional outbursts are informed by our rational mind. A person who holds certain opinions is incensed by certain things and gladdened by others that agree with his intellectual evaluations. And so, the two remain entangled - sometimes agreeing and at other times conflicting with one another.

(EN: The more modern view of emotions considers them to be logical shortcuts that are not separate from logic, but often derived from it. The reason some people have different emotional reactions is based not only on their previous emotional reactions, but to the decisions they have made and the values that they hold. In this sense, emotions are not different to reason, but are "rational shortcuts" that are based on logic. So Atkinson's perspective here should be taken in the context of the time, which reason and emotion were considered to be different things altogether.)