Sunday, September 19, 2010

How We Define Thinking and Feeling

Do you make decisions based on logic or your feelings? For most of my life, this was an easy question. When we say, "follow your heart," it means do what you really want to do. I always assumed that logic was based more on what you should do and feelings were based more on what you wanted to. By this definition, I decide things based on feelings.

In psychology, we talked about feelings as intuition. Logic meant that you analyzed the situation and results of each choice, and intuition meant that you just had a gut feeling about the right thing to do without any real explanation. Whether you use logic or feelings (or some of both) to make a decision, these things are processes. You shouldn't be able to label someone as thinking or feelings based only on their final decisions. But sometimes, we label someone as more logical or more emotional based on whether or not their priorities match the standard priorities of their culture or society.

Let's say that a person gets two similar job offers, except that one has a much higher salary. The one with the higher salary is far away, whereas the lower-paying job is close to home. I predict that we would classify someone who takes the higher paying job as logical and someone who takes the close-to-home job as feeling. This decision has to do with personal priorities, but since our society values the salary and expects people to be willing to move for a job, we assume that the person who acts in accordance with these values must be more logical.

But thinking is a process. If two people list the pros and cons of each option and make different decisions because they have different priorities, they both used thinking. If two people had a gut feeling about which job was right for them and both chose different jobs, they both used feeling. We can't decide whether someone is thinking or feelings based on what they decide.

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