How our mood affects decision making

How our mood affects decision making

Until not many decades ago, the emotions they were not something that were excessively taken into account when deepening and explaining human behavior. Gradually, psychology was studying the enormous importance that these feelings had in our behavior, including decision making. From choosing between two brands of shampoo in the supermarket, to deciding what jobs to accept between two different cities, emotions play such an important role that many studies have been carried out on the subject. Today, from psychoactive, we comment on the fundamental role that emotions and moods play in our ability to decide.


  • 1 Emotions and decision making
  • 2 Positive elements that contribute emotions
  • 3 When emotions are not so good allies
  • 4 Specific emotions and their impact when deciding

Emotions and decision making

The mood and emotions Not only do they influence the decision-making processes but sometimes they completely determine them. Learning how we work in these cases can help us be more objective and practical about it.

Some people say that it is best to put aside emotions when deciding, to reach the most rational conclusion, but these feelings are also very important elements to take into account because they work as a necessary impulse to act, transmitting messages from our body about what we want and what we don't want in our lives. Other people, however, argue that "listening to the heart" or "instinct" will lead us to the best decision, which can also have negative implications, such as those we will see below.

Positive elements that bring emotions

When we make decisions based on emotions and not on rationalization, there are a number of differences that can be both positive and negative.

In situations of survival in which you have to react momentarily, emotions can make decision-making be faster that when rationality plays a greater role. An emotion like him fear, makes our ability to act more reactive, which can be positive when we need to act quickly in order to preserve our survival.

Emotions are also very positive when options to choose from are very similar. They help select what the individual really wants more clearly. In addition, emotions can cause us to consider the feelings of others and empathize with them when making decisions, which can sometimes be a contradiction to self-interest, but achieves greater solidarity between human beings.

When there is emotion during the experience of an experience, our brain will process and store the information more accurately, getting us to learn more deeply and make future decisions based on these experiences.

When emotions are not so good allies

In more complex situations that require many elements to consider, acting reactively can be counterproductive. There are problematic situations that require reflection and consideration of very different factors, since the consequences of a bad decision can have very negative effects. These are decisions that are usually made longer term and that require patience and good observation.

When the emotions are very intense and influence decision making too much, this may leave little room for rationality and often attract negative consequences. Although we then try to justify ourselves rationally, our reflection has been nullified by the magnitude of our feelings at any given time, leaving little room for consideration of various factors, implications and possible consequences. That is why when making an important decision, waiting to be calm and more aware of these factors is very necessary.

Specific emotions and their impact when deciding

Some of the most studied emotions regarding their implications in decision making are:

Fear and uncertainty

The fear It is an intense emotion that creates a sense of uncertainty, of fear of what may happen. This it can lead us to react quickly to an extreme situation, or to leave us blocked when fear is permanent and consolidated. Expressions like "everything will go wrong" or "I don't think I can do this" come from a sense of fear that does not allow us to contemplate the situation rationally or find the courage to decide.

Anger and trust

According to psychologists and researchers like Jennifer Lerner, of Harvard University, Anger, unlike fear, creates a sense of trust that leads to a greater risk, minimizing their danger.. Anger activates people and they tend to seek a more intense and immediate consequence. It is the emotion that usually calls for something that we consider unfair, however it can simplify our thinking leading to confusion, rather than making a good decision.

Excessive positivity

Although it seems surprising, Very high feelings of happiness and joy are not great allies when making decisions. Positive emotions help make decisions a little faster, however, an excess of positivity seems to be related to greater confidence in the appeal of a decision, bypassing other important messages that talk more about the quality of the decision.

Sadness and negative mood

Conversely, not too excessive sadness can make our thinking more systematic. Thus, we tend to process and reflect better on factors that are not so attractive, analyzing situations better. But again, excessive sadness leads to a blockage and a rumination of thoughts that can lead people to confusion and immobilization, making wrong decisions based on the most extreme pessimism.

As we can see, emotions that are generally excessively intense, both anger, joy and sadness, make us process situations and problems in a biased way. Certain doses of emotion are completely necessary to activate and condition our ability to decide according to our desires, but remember, if you must make an important decision that can have very noticeable consequences in the long term, it is best to contemplate the situation with calm and tranquility, of systematically, so that the process is not marred by a burst of momentary emotions that have not allowed us to study the situation well.

Links of interest

The Best Headspace for Making Decisions. Olga Khazan (2016) //

Emotional decision making can improve decisions when managed as part of the process. //

How Your Emotions Influence Your Decisions. Svetlana Whitener. (2018). //