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Emotional bias

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An emotional bias is a distortion in cognition and decision making due to emotional factors.

For example, a person might be inclined:

  • to attribute negative judgements to neutral events or objects;[1][2]
  • to believe something that has a positive emotional effect, that gives a pleasant feeling, even if there is evidence to the contrary;
  • to be reluctant to accept hard facts that are unpleasant and give mental suffering.

Effect of dispositional emotionality[edit]

Emotional bias is often the effect of dispositional emotionality that an individual has before the occurrence of events that could cause these emotions. These states were linked to the dysregulation in opioid receptor systems and are commonly known as temperament traits [3] The examples are dispositional dysphoria, irritability, withdrawal, or dispositional good and relaxed moods. These dispositions create emotional biases in cognition. Studies of meaning attribution in 24 groups contrasted by various temperament traits showed that people with high neuroticism, high emotionality and weak endurance perceived neutral abstract concepts more negatively than people with low neuroticism and strong endurance.[4][5]

Other effects[edit]

Effects of emotional biases can be similar to those of a cognitive bias, it can even be considered as a subcategory of such biases. The specificity is that the cause lies in one's desires or fears, which divert the attention of the person, more than in one's reasoning.

Neuroscience experiments have shown how emotions and cognition, which are present in different areas of the human brain, interfere with each other in decision making process, resulting often in a primacy of emotions over reasoning[6]

Emotional bias might help explain the tendency towards over-optimism or over-pessimism, even when evidence for a more rational conclusion is available.

Emotional attention bias[edit]



Emotional attention bias can be influenced by sleep. Studies have been performed and have shown that sleep deprivation in children reduces their ability to adjust their behavior in emotional situations. Children showed high emotional attention biases when deprived of sleep. This occurs because sleep prepares the body for emotional challenges.[7]

Decision making[edit]

Emotions have a small to large impact on the decisions we make depending on the type of emotion.[8] Some of the most influential emotions for decision-making are sadness, disgust, and guilt.[8] Anger differs the most from fear and sadness in both judgment and decision-making contexts.[8] Fear is associated with uncertainty, while sadness is associated with a perception that outcomes are due to the situation.[8] Angry decision-makers tend to make choices quickly and are unlikely to analyze their decisions.[9] Stress can play a role in decision-making. Acute stress can alter the response to moral dilemmas.[10] On the other hand, stress does not always alter everyday, moral decision-making.[11] One study looked at the role emotions play in adolescents' moral decision-making. In a hypothetical, prosocial behavioral context, positively charged self-evaluative emotions most strongly predict moral choice.[12] In anti-social behaviors, negatively charged, critical emotions most strongly predict moral choice.[12] Regret and disappointment are emotions experienced after a decision. In some cases, regret has created a stronger desire to switch choices than disappointment.[13]

Emotions affect different types of decisions.[1][2] Emotions have a strong influence on economic behavior and decision-making.[14] In some behavioral anomalies, certain emotions related to some tasks can have an increased impact.[15] In one experiment, researchers looked at what emotions manifest the disposition effect, where individuals sell winning shares and hold losing ones.[15] They found that elation for winners and regret for losers are necessary emotions that can cause the effect to occur.[15] In regards to patients making a medical decision, emotions and one's motivational goals, play a part as well.[16] One study looked at the elements of coping behaviors.[16] The first two elements have to do with the need to control the cognitive and emotional elements of the health threat; the second pair of elements relate to the management of cognitive and emotional aspects of the decision itself.[16]

Brain damage can cause changes in normal decision-making processes. The amygdala is an area in the brain involved in emotion. Studies have found that patients with bilateral amygdala damage, which is damage in both hemispheres of the amygdala region in the brain, are deficient in decision-making.[17] When an initial choice is made in decision-making, the result of this choice has an emotional response, which is controlled by the amygdala.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Barrett LF, Bar M (May 2009). "See it with feeling: affective predictions during object perception". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1521): 1325–34. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0312. PMC 2666711. PMID 19528014.
  2. ^ a b Blanchette I (2010). "The influence of affect on higher level cognition: A review of research on interpretation, judgement, decision making and reasoning". Cognition and Emotion. 24 (4): 561–595. doi:10.1080/02699930903132496. S2CID 144271056.
  3. ^ Trofimova I (April 2018). "Functionality versus dimensionality in psychological taxonomies, and a puzzle of emotional valence". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 373 (1744). doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0167. PMC 5832691. PMID 29483351.
  4. ^ Trofimova I (October 1999). "An investigation of how people of different age, sex, and temperament estimate the world". Psychological Reports. 85 (2): 533–52. doi:10.2466/pr0.1999.85.2.533. PMID 10611787. S2CID 8335544.
  5. ^ Trofimova I (2014). "Observer bias: an interaction of temperament traits with biases in the semantic perception of lexical material". PLOS ONE. 9 (1): e85677. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...985677T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085677. PMC 3903487. PMID 24475048.
  6. ^ Boquet D (10 December 2016). "Review of: Feelings in History". Bryn Mawr Classical Review.
  7. ^ Cremone A, Kurdziel LB, Fraticelli-Torres A, McDermott JM, Spencer RM (July 2017). "Napping reduces emotional attention bias during early childhood". Developmental Science. 20 (4): e12411. doi:10.1111/desc.12411. PMC 5149120. PMID 27287732.
  8. ^ a b c d Angie AD, Connelly S, Waples EP, Kligyte V (December 2011). "The influence of discrete emotions on judgement and decision-making: a meta-analytic review". Cognition & Emotion. 25 (8): 1393–422. doi:10.1080/02699931.2010.550751. PMID 21500048. S2CID 40710049.
  9. ^ Lerner JS, Tiedens LZ (2006). "Portrait of the angry decision maker: How appraisal tendencies shape anger's influence on cognition". Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. 19 (2): 115–137. doi:10.1002/bdm.515. S2CID 32561.
  10. ^ Youssef FF, Dookeeram K, Basdeo V, Francis E, Doman M, Mamed D, et al. (April 2012). "Stress alters personal moral decision making". Psychoneuroendocrinology. 37 (4): 491–8. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.07.017. PMID 21899956. S2CID 30489504.
  11. ^ Starcke K, Polzer C, Wolf OT, Brand M (February 2011). "Does stress alter everyday moral decision-making?". Psychoneuroendocrinology. 36 (2): 210–9. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.07.010. PMID 20692104. S2CID 1341666.
  12. ^ a b Krettenauer T, Jia F, Mosleh M (February 2011). "The role of emotion expectancies in adolescents' moral decision making". Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 108 (2): 358–70. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2010.08.014. PMID 20961560.
  13. ^ Chua HF, Gonzalez R, Taylor SF, Welsh RC, Liberzon I (October 2009). "Decision-related loss: regret and disappointment". NeuroImage. 47 (4): 2031–40. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.06.006. PMID 19524050. S2CID 16765820.
  14. ^ Weber EU, Johnson EJ (2009). "Mindful judgment and decision making". Annual Review of Psychology. 60: 53–85. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163633. PMID 18798706. S2CID 5560068.
  15. ^ a b c Summers B, Duxbury D (2012). "Decision-dependent emotions and behavioral anomalies". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 118 (2): 226–238. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2012.03.004.
  16. ^ a b c Power TE, Swartzman LC, Robinson JW (May 2011). "Cognitive-emotional decision making (CEDM): a framework of patient medical decision making". Patient Education and Counseling. 83 (2): 163–9. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2010.05.021. PMID 20573468.
  17. ^ a b Gupta R, Koscik TR, Bechara A, Tranel D (March 2011). "The amygdala and decision-making". Neuropsychologia. 49 (4): 760–6. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.09.029. PMC 3032808. PMID 20920513.