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Emotional reasoning

Paul Norris, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Emotional reasoning is emotionally-based cognition operating on subjective terms, independent of rationality, and using feelings as criteria. In Study 1, 113 participants, 29 men and 84 women, focussed either on their feelings or on the reasons for their choices as they made a series of decisions in a card-playing game. Contrary to predictions, participants who focussed on their feelings were less likely to make optimal decisions in the game. This study thus provided no evidence that emotional reasoning can reach optimal conclusions. In a second study, 96 participants, 35 men and 61 women, made a series of decisions to cooperate or compete with an unseen partner in a Prisoner's Dilemma game. Participants who focussed on their feelings were less likely to compete than participants who focussed on reasons for making each decision, so that they did less well in the short term, but significantly better over the long term, than participants in the Reasons condition. Participants who described themselves as highly rational were also less likely to do well in the game. This study demonstrates that emotional reasoning can be more effective than rational decision-making.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Personality|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Norris, Paul, "Emotional reasoning" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988827.