His disability manifested in a very peculiar way; though his analytical functioning remained intact, he was severely inhibited in his ability to make decisions requiring choices from more than one set of options. For example, when shopping for groceries, he was incapable of determining whether he should buy “Catsup” or “Ketchup”. Though he was able to continue his employment, other problems arose during the course of his work. Upon finalizing a lengthy and complex contract he had written, he could not decide if he should sign the contract using a pen with blue ink versus black ink. Both options had perceived merits, yet he was unable to determine which color in pen to use.
Most of us believe that we are capable of making objective decisions based on fact and reason. But being purely logical is problematic. I was always intrigued by the highly logical character of Spock on the Star Trek sci-fi series. Ingeniously, Gene Roddenberry created Spock to be the progeny of an abjectly logical Vulcan father and an emotional human mother. Roddenberry knew that a purely logical character would be both predictable and uninteresting. But by imbuing the character with an inherently illogical “human” element, he created a built-in dramatic conflict between Spock’s logical leanings and often contradictory emotional responses - quite ingenious drama.
We are often unaware that we are making decisions; we actually make hundreds of decisions every day, a majority of them unconsciously. The choice of clothing, the route we drive to work, our lunch choices – they are all a combination of rational and emotional evaluations.
We believe we are capable, rational and perhaps analytical in our decision making when important choices, such as purchase of a car, for example. But we do not make decisions in a vacuum. Consciously or not, we place value judgments against our thought processes. We weight the projected consequences of our decisions, which we may accept or find we need to rationalize in our minds in order to feel good about the choice. Heck, this is why cars come in colors like Candy Apple Red, have sport wheels or a kick-ass leather interior.
Advertising is cleverly designed to tap into the emotional aspects of our decision process and it is extremely effective. Appealing images and convincing statements skew our analytical processes. This is why that even though brand name Tylenol and generic acetaminophen are exactly the same products, consumers consistently purchase the higher priced brand name over the generic.
Research has even shown that that employers often come to decisions about who they wish to hire within mere seconds of initially meeting the applicant. The results of these tests have shown the surprisingly high incidence that the applicants who an interviewer immediately likes, overwhelmingly results in that person being offered the job. The qualifications, skills and experience of the application become secondary concerns, justifications may be created in an attempt to rationalize a wholly emotionally made decision.
However, there are pitfalls to rendering a decision based largely on emotions. The notable French scientist Louis Pasteur became concerned as scientific methodology surged in 19th century Europe. He saw many scientists engaging in experimentation who he felt were fixated on using the tools of science to confirm their already held hypothesis and thereby throwing out data which contradicted their expectations. He warned that discarding data could result in lost discoveries and incorrect conclusions: “Did you ever observe to whom the accidents happen? Chance favors only the prepared mind,” he cautioned.
~~~Leaders in the so-called "birther" movement argued their case over President Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship before a federal appeals court Monday in Southern California, claiming the full birth certificate he released last week had been doctored. [Full story here]