Would you do better picking stocks in the new year if you use your head, or your heart? Research by a team from the University of Iowa seems to indicate the less you care, the better you’ll do. Dr. Antoine Bechara is a professor at the University of Southern California, but his research team from the University of Iowa is continuing research they began there on emotion and cognition.
The main idea of the study, he says, is that “emotions, for better or worse, play a key role in decision making.” The team worked with patients who’d suffered damage to the brain’s limbic system — which governs emotional response. He says sometimes that’s a critical quality for doing the right thing.
Patients who have damage in areas of the brain that make them incapable of processing emotions make very bad decisions in their own lives — they often lead to bankruptcy, breakup of the family, distance from relatives and friends and other trouble. But he says emotions can have a negative role as well. When the topic wasn’t personal decisions, Doctor Bechara says they found a different set of results appeared.
In certain kinds of decisions, emotion can interfere and play a negative role. He gives an example of a treatment that would offer the patient a 98-percent chance of a cure, but a 2-percent of dying. Logically you should do it, but emotion can interfere with that, and alter the decision. He says in some circumstances, like investing in the stock market, that detachment could be useful in making well-considered choices. So are emotions good or bad?
Emotions play a significant role in life, and Bechara says the question is understanding when they’re good for us, when they’re bad for us. While the team worked with brain-damaged patients, he says people could learn ways to control their emotions, to achieve valuable results like doctors try to do when treating a patient without being disturbed by their sickness. Bechara’s team has worked since the early 1990s on this topic and though they’ve taken new jobs in California he travels often to Iowa to teach and continue the study in this field.