“Red Flag” Decision Making

How do our emotions influence our everyday decision-making? Is it better to be logical or emotional when we make decisions? We live in a world full of many choices and opportunities that can make decision making emotional in our everyday life. Think about a trip to the grocery store or buying a new car or home and how emotional those decisions can become. It is important to understand our emotions and how they impact the decisions we face on a daily basis.

Most of our decisions are informed by our emotional responses because that is what emotions are designed to do. Emotions appraise and summarize an experience and inform our actions (www.psychologytoday.com). So if an emotion is triggered, just how much should we pay attention to it? For example, you may have an emotional reaction to a pushy salesperson. You may think that the best course of action is to ignore an intense emotion rather than figure it out. Emotions serve a purpose, informing us what to do (Goldstein 2011). If our brain comes across something and categorizes it as a “red flag” we will be notified through thoughts and feelings created by emotion (www.psychologytoday.com). This “red flag” alerts us to pay attention. Our emotions act as a cueing system notifying us to pay attention and take action. It is important for us to evaluate each “red flag” pay attention to it and see if it is appropriate to take action.

When we use logic to make decisions, we seek to exclude emotions, using only rational methods, and perhaps even mathematical tools. There is a wide range of decision-making that uses emotion, depending on the degree of logic that is included in the process (www.decision-making-solutions.com). A totally emotional decision is typically very fast. Common emotional decisions may use some logic, but the main driving force is emotion, which either overrides logic or uses pseudo-logic to support emotional choices. Another common use of emotion in decision making is to start with logic and then use emotion in the final choice. So at the point of decision, emotions are very important for choosing. In fact even with what we believe are logical decisions; the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion (www.decision-making-solutions).

Our emotions drive the decisions we make today, and our success may depend upon our ability to understand and interpret them (www.decision-making-solutions.com). Recently I went to the grocery store on an empty stomach. Because I was hungry the force behind my decision to purchase more food than I needed was my emotion. I made a bad decision by not interpreting my hunger, which made my decision emotional in order to save time. If I was to just pay attention to my emotion “red flag” which was hunger I would have made a much better decision by going to the grocery store on a full stomach. Since I ignored the “red flag” and tried to save a little time. I ended up losing money by purchasing food that I really didn’t need. There was no logic in purchasing a bunch of food that I didn’t need because it caused me to go over my grocery budget for the month. I am a college student with limited funds. This emotional decision by going to the grocery story hungry was costly. The problem was that I know that my eyes get bigger than my stomach. When I go to the grocery store hungry and buy things that I don’t need, which are generally less healthy, it is my choice to go before eating in order to save time. Again logic went right out the window because I was determined to save time.

Our emotional system can give us an advantage in decision making if we make proper use of it. Emotions can tell us something about the world that we may not have accurately perceived in another way. Our lives are filled with emotional decision making on a daily basis. By simply paying attention to “red flags” and evaluate what they mean, we can help determine if it is appropriate to make an emotional based decision.


Goldstein, E.B. (2011).  Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, Third Ed. Belmont, CA. Wasdworth, Cengage Learning.

Emotional Decision Making. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2015, from http://www.decision-making-solutions.com/emotional_decision_making.html

Like it Or Not, Emotions Will Drive the Decisions You Make Today. (n.d.). Retrieved August 5, 2015, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201012/it-or-not-emotions-will-drive-the-decisions-you


1 thought on ““Red Flag” Decision Making

Leave a Reply