Values and Decision Making

Emotions influence most of our decisions andhelp us discern what is important in our environment. They should not be ignored but, rather, understood.

Emotions are particularly influential in the moral realm. They guide moral reasoning and reveal our implicit values. We have also found that both positive and negative emotions can drive prosocial and moral behavior. For example, the positive emotion of feeling moved promotes charitable behavior. Shame, an unpleasant emotion, is morally useful, too: it protects our values because immoral behavior is sometimes prevented by the mere imagination of the shame the behavior would cause.

Sometimes we are not aware of the ways in which emotions affect our decisions. Affective states have been shown to influence aspects of our life as varied as hiring decisions, risky behavior, and decision making about the future.

Emotions affect our cognitive performance in general, with good and bad consequences. Our researchers work to better understand these subtle influences and apply this knowledge to address real-life problems. For example, we study the role of trust in economic and financial decisions. In another line of research, we investigate how emotions and values can drive environmentally minded choices and sustainable behavior in the area of energy consumption. In literary research, we investigate whether narratives could increase our capacity for empathy.