Are we rational or emotional beings?

If we were asked to sum up in an adjective something that defines human beings and differentiates them from other animals, we would probably refer to the fact that ours is a rational species.

Unlike the vast majority of life forms, we can think in abstract terms related to language, and thanks to them we are able to create long term plans, to be aware of realities that we have never experienced. in first person and to speculate on how nature works, among other things.

However, it is also true that emotions have a very important weight in the way we experience things; Mood influences the decisions we make, the way we set priorities and even the way we remember. Which of these two areas of our mental life best defines us?

Are we rational or emotional animals?

What is the difference between rationality and emotionality? This simple question can be a subject that entire books are written about, but one thing that quickly catches your attention is that rationality is usually defined in more specific terms: it is rational the action or thought on which it is. based.reason, which is the area in which the compatibilities and incompatibilities that exist between ideas and concepts arising from the principles of logic are examined.

In other words, what characterizes rationality is the consistency and solidity of the actions and thoughts that emanate from it. Therefore, the theory says that something rational can be understood by many people, because the consistency of this assembled set of ideas is information that can be communicated, not according to what is subjective.

however, the emotional is something that cannot be expressed in logical terms, and that is why it is “closed” in subjectivity of each. Art forms can be a means of publicly expressing the nature of the emotions they feel, but neither the interpretation that each one makes of these works of art nor the emotions that this experience will evoke live up to the standards. subjective experiences as the author. wanted to capture.

In short, the fact that the rational is easier to define than the emotional tells us about one of the differences between these two areas: the first works very well on paper and allows certain mental processes to be expressed by doing others. that they come to understand them in an almost exact way, if the emotions are private, they cannot be reproduced by writing.

However, the fact that the domain of rationality can be described in a more precise way than that of the emotional does not mean that it defines better how we behave. In fact, in a way, the opposite is happening.

Limited rationality: Kahneman, Gigerenzer …

How emotional is so hard to define, many psychologists prefer to speak, in any case, of “limited rationality”.. What we would usually call “emotions” would thus be buried in numerous tendencies and patterns of behavior which, this time, have limits relatively easy to describe: they are all that is not rational.

like that, researchers like Daniel Kahneman or Gerd Gigerenzer have become famous for having carried out numerous surveys in which we check to what extent rationality is entelechy and does not represent the way we usually act. Kahneman, in fact, wrote one of the most influential books on the subject of bounded rationality: Thinking Fast, Thinking Slowly, in which he conceptualizes our way of thinking by distinguishing between a rational and logical system and an automatic system, emotional and fast.

Heuristics and cognitive biases

Heuristics, cognitive biases, all the mental shortcuts we take to make decisions in the shortest possible time and with the limited amount of resources and information at our disposal … all this, mixed with emotions, is part of non-rationality, Because these are not procedures that can be explained by logic.

However, when it comes to the truth, it is non-rationality that is most present in our lives, as individuals and as a species. And furthermore, many clues about the distance to go are very easy to see.

The rational is the exception: the case of advertising

The existence of advertising gives us a clue about this. 30-second television commercials in which the explanations of the technical characteristics of a car are rubbish and we cannot even see how this vehicle can make us want to buy it, by investing several salaries in it.

The same goes for all advertising in general; Advertising pieces are a means of selling something without having to communicate in detail the technical (and therefore objective) characteristics of the product. Companies spend too many millions on advertising a year for this communication mechanism to tell us nothing about how buyers make decisions, and behavioral economics has generated a lot of research showing how decision making based on hunches and stereotypes is very common, Almost the default buying strategy.

Challenge Jean Piaget

Another way to see how limited rationality is is to realize that logic and most notions of mathematics must be learned deliberately, investing time and effort in it. While it is true that newborns are already able to think in basic mathematical terms, a person can live perfectly all his life without knowing what logical errors are and constantly fall into them.

It is also known that in some cultures, adults remain in the third stage of cognitive development defined by Jean Piaget, rather than moving to the fourth and final stage, characterized by the correct use of logic. In other words, logical and rational thinking, rather than being an essential characteristic of human beings, is rather a historical product present in some cultures and not in others.

Personally, I think the latter is the definitive argument as to why this plot of mental life that we can relate to rationality cannot be compared to the realms of emotions, hunches, and cognitive hitches that we usually do on a daily basis for. get out. of the passage in complex contexts which in theory should be approached by logic. If we are to offer an essentialist definition of what defines the human mind, then rationality as a way of thinking and acting must be left out, because it is the result of a cultural step taken by the development of language and writing.

Emotion predominates

The trap by which we can come to believe that we are rational beings “by nature” is probably that, compared to the rest of life, we are rather more logical and inclined to systematic reasoning; however, this does not mean that we think fundamentally from the principles of logic; historically, the cases in which we have done so are exceptions.

Perhaps the use of reason has very dramatic results and it is very useful and desirable to use it, but that does not mean that reason itself is not, in itself, something. something to aspire to, more than one that defines our mental life. If logic is so easy to delimit and define, it is precisely because there is more to paper than to ourselves..

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