Descartes Error: Character Analysis

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If you’re asked to think about someone who is very rational, what kind of characteristics come to mind? Your imagined rational being will most likely be someone who is smart, logical and intelligent; someone who is objective and can be reasoned with; possibly someone who is balanced, levelheaded and stable. In other words, this rational someone won’t be very sentimental. I assume the person you’re thinking about will probably not be a hysterical emotional wreck! Why do I say this? Because the characteristics we generally associate with rationality don’t leave much room for emotions. If you look at characters in movies and TV series, those who are portrayed as extremely competent, intelligent and rational, many of them lack a certain degree…show more content…
After the surgery, what Elliot had lost along with portions of his frontal lobe was the ability to prioritize. He could not hold down a job because he would keep shifting between tasks, unable to decide what was more important. People with damages to their frontal cortex lose the ability to care or in Elliot’s case, their ability to prioritize. Emotions help us to set priorities, like going to college, having a career, getting married – they tell us what we care about. Thus, a loss of emotional capacity will not suddenly turn you into a smart intellectual creature like Spock, instead it will cause your rationality to fail. The famous example of Phineas Gage is a case in…show more content…
From an evolutionary perspective, the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for conscious decision making and judgments is relatively new. Thus, when confronted with a choice of options, an emotional response comes more readily than a logical one. The neuro economist Ernt Fehr has done extensive research on the neural pathways involved in decision making. He used fMRIs to study brain activity of participants playing games involving finance and economics. His research shows that when a player takes calculated, logical decisions to take down an opponent, emotional and social pathways in the brain also light up. This finding has also been confirmed by other researches that suggest similar links between rational and emotional decision making. In other words, no matter how much it looks like it, our decisions aren’t actually completely rational. So, yes, we’re not really as logical as we like to think! One of the most common reasons why our rationality fails is because we are loss aversive. Thus, our judgments are easily influenced by whether something is presented as a gain or a loss (framing effect), something that advertisers love to cash on! This effect is nicely illustrated in a research by Levin et al (1998)2 in which subjects were urged to participate in some activity (e.g. wearing a seatbelt). It was found that they were more likely to participate when the plea emphasized the disadvantages of not engaging

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