We, as human beings have emotions. We feel happy if someone gave us a gift; we feel sad when we failed our exams; we feel angry if someone showed disrespect towards us. Emotional reactions usually don’t last for a long time and they generally fade away very quickly, but this doesn’t stop our emotions from spilling over into our decision-making, and therefore may play a significant role in influencing our behavior, especially when it comes to responses towards a certain event.
If we make a decision to act upon our emotions, this DECISION might be programmed as your future behavior and may later become a part of your habit, making it harder to change and reprogram. Let’s read this example:
One day, you were very happy because of your job promotion and you DECIDED to buy your girlfriend some flowers and dinner to celebrate the occasion. But, on a future event with her, you might consult your memory of your past actions as a cue for your present actions. And as expected, you buy her flowers and a dinner again…and again…and again… even when you didn’t have the NEED to.
The sad truth about human beings is we behave on our cues without questioning it.
And why is that? The answer is a phenomenon called “Self Herding”.
We often refer our past actions (some of them were acted upon our feelings) as a guideline for our future actions. Not only that, we will also attribute our past actions into our general character or personality and later translate the past actions into future habit. Here is an example:
Emotion: I feel very happy today
Decision: I decide to give money to a Beggar (because I feel happy)
Interpretation of your action (give money): I must be a very caring person
Long-Term Decision: I should volunteer in the Non-Government Organization
Yet, the impact of the emotion in the example above is not bad, at least it leads you to do something good for the society. But it’s important to know that emotion is powerful enough to alter your decision or interrupt your habit-forming circle.
Hence, a tip for you here! DO NOT (I repeat, DO NOT!) buy your girlfriend flower when you are happy, otherwise you will be programmed to buy thousands of flowers for your girlfriend without knowing why…. and of course, Emotion is the culprit!
If you want to know more about how human beings are trapped in their own cognitive errors, do check this book out: “The Upside of Irrationality” by Dan Ariely, as it offers a very interesting and entertaining perspective on how our habit formation and our emotional responses interact with one another to make us what we are – humans.
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