Emotions and Decision-making

This is an interesting subject - how emotions can get in the way of sound decision-making. Scientists tell us that our brain is actually divided in three layers: the Reptilian Complex, the Limbic System, and the Neocortex. The inner layer, or Reptilian Complex, is in charge of our most basic functions such as digestion, breathing, blood circulation, and the execution of "fight or flight" responses to stress; it is highly concerned with the survival instinct. One characteristic, then, is that it may preempt superior layers exactly because it is in charge of survival.


The Limbic System, the second layer, is the primary place for our emotions, and it is also related to primary functions such as food and sex, smell, emotions and feelings. Its interaction with the outer layer, the Neocortex, is quite complex. The Neocortex is where our cognitive process happens, what makes language and writing possible for humans - or where our reason resides, so to speak.This outer layer allows us to see ahead and plan the future, something that no other animal can do.


When we allow the limbic system to control the decision-making process, weird things may happen - for instance, the "fight or flight" behavior may be triggered by a false alarm, making that person to narrow the focus of his thinking (and the physical focus of his vision too). In situations of danger, our Reptilian Complex will switch all our basic functions to "survival" mode. That's when even though our cognitive brain is telling us that the situation is fine, if emotions are in control the body may be actually in "fight or flight" mode and our physical reactions will be as we were fighting great danger, because the inner brain just ignores that it may be a false alarm. That causes out decision making to be clouded, resulting in less than perfect outcomes.