The upside of irrationality – Emotional bias

“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing that he was never reasoned into.”

Jonathan Swift, Author

Have you noticed how some days your ideas are just all approved by your manager and other times none of them? You probably put the same effort and approach into them, yet the result is different. The reason is simple. When people are happy they take a positive view on everything and vice versa!

This is a kink in your emotional bias – it basically works with somatic markers, where if you have encountered a similar situation before, then how you felt about it last time, will determine your response. If you had a good experience AND is having a good day, then this will further accelerate it.

This also works the other way with bad experiences and bad days of course. But it gets worse. A study of parole hearings in the US with three judges working through a bunch of cases in a day showed that the likelihood of parole was decent at the beginning of the day and then it immediately started dropping. Suddenly it would swing back up and then immediately started dropping again before taking one more dramatic increase and drop. What happened at those times of drastic improvement in the likelihood of parole? Lunch and afternoon snacks. That is it. Your life may be decided based on whether people remembered to bring their lunch pack. Because when people run out of energy they immediately return to the base choice – status quo – no parole.

In behavioral economics we call this lack of energy for ego depletion. And the effect is dramatic not just on your motivation for breaking status quo – it impairs your judgement. If you have not gotten a night of sleep it is the equivalent to a 15% reduction on IQ tests. That means that if you are smart, you become normal – and if you are normal you will now have trouble tying your shoes.

Even on an average day with good energy our emotions – and thus our decisions – can be hijacked, as you will experience in this short video clip:

Now I dare you to say that this does not touch you. And that is the point. Because anti smoking campaigns, where people are informed about how smoking ruins their life almost acts as motivators. But this works.

If you want to learn more about how to use behavioral economics to build and execute better business strategies, please contact me at or +45-23103206.

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