Emotions and irrationality

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Although emotions play a key role in reasoning and decision making, empirical research confirms what poets, novelists and philosophers have always stressed, namely that affective states often compromise the rationality of people”s judgments and decisions. In particular, psychologists now investigate a host of motivational (or “emotional”) biases that interfere both with theoretical and practical reasoning, leading to undesirable outcomes, such as risk mismanagement, unrealistic optimism, scapegoating, stereotypes, polarisation of opinion, hasty generalisations, and so forth. In this chapter, I examine the two most commons forms of motivated reasoning - wishful thinking and aversive thinking - and show that they are linked to specific cognitive illusions. Further, I challenge the view that certain emotional biases, and particularly “positive illusions”, are overall beneficial for people’s wellbeing and mental health. Finally, I raise the problem of “de-biasing” and briefly describe several strategies that can plausibly be used to counteract such irrational tendencies and their undesirable effects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew Interdisciplinary Landscapes in Morality and Emotion
EditorsSara Graça Da Silva
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781351387330, 9781315143897
ISBN (Print)9781138500594
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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