Blog: Do Emotions Impede Critical Thinking? - 2017-05-18

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F0.png Do Emotions Impede Critical Thinking? May 18, 2017, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large

Today we're going to talk about emotions and logic and critical thinking.

There are lots of videos and talks out there about logic vs emotion and how these are two different kinds of thinking, or how emotions mess up critical thinking and make it difficult for people to make good decisions or form accurate opinions. I disagree with that analysis because let's be real: emotions are not something you can separate out or take away from people. Despite having very strong feelings on lots of different topics, people have been able to make perfectly valid and reasonable decisions about all kinds of things. Even Mr. Spock from Star Trek, the ultimate logical thinker, experienced a full range of emotions. He just suppressed the crap out of them because his people adopted a philosophy that emotions were bad. They had good reasons to think so, but as I think any psychologist would tell you, suppressing or denying how we feel only gets us into some real psychological messes and is not much of a solution for critical thinking.

Emotion, information, logic and our implicit and explicit biases all work in partnership to drive our thinking. In human beings, these are inseparable components. If you are going to talk about practical critical thinking, you need to take all of these things into account, otherwise you're going to fail since we are not purely logical computers and not purely emotional or instinctual animals. Emotions get a bad rap in critical thinking, but there's nothing wrong with having them, and there's nothing wrong with acting on them. If we didn't act on our emotions, many of us would never have relationships, would never have children or wouldn't try to push the envelope of innovation. Believe me, you can think of hundreds of very logical reasons to not do almost anything but we do them anyway because despite the odds, we just feel we can pull it off. We owe a lot of our forward progress in history to people who had very strong emotions driving them to do what they did.