Humans are governed by emotionsliterally

be located in the brain's prefrontal cortex, which grew on top of but did not replace older brain systems.

"Human behavior is not under the sole control of emotion or deliberation but results from the interaction of these two processes," Loewenstein said.

Emote control is fast, but can respond only to a limited amount of situations, while deliberation is far more flexible but relatively slow and laborious. Emote control is the default decision-making system. Deliberation kicks in when a person encounters a situation that is new or when the correct response is not evident. Emote control is highly attuned to vivid imagery, immediacy and novelty, meaning that the emotional system is more likely to respond to events that are associated with striking visual images, that occurred in the recent past, and that people are unfamiliar with and have not had time to adapt to. Emotion also is sensitive to the categories into which humans automatically place the people and things they encounter--from the perspective of law and social policy, the all-important distinction between "us" and "them." And emote control can activate deliberation, according to Loewenstein and Lobel.

"Moderate levels of fear, anger or any almost any form of negative emotion warn the deliberative system that something is wrong and that its capabilities are required. Perversely, as emotion intensifies, however, it tends to assume control over behavior even as it triggers the deliberative system, so one may realize what the best course of action is, but find one's self doing the opposite," Loewenstein said.

This means that the situations that most require a careful, well-reasoned response are those in which our emotions are most likely to sabotage our long-term interests. America's founding fathers understood that passion could trump principle and therefore vested Congress, a deliberative body in which power is dispersed among dozens of members, with the power to make war, rat

Contact: Jonathan Potts
Carnegie Mellon University

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