We Decide Before We Decide

When we make most decisions, we think we understand the process. We evaluate the plusses and minuses, we arrive at a rational conclusion, and we act.

That is almost completely wrong.

Decisions are made before we actually decide. Our emotional brain reflects our core instincts, all of the lessons we’ve learned. This part of the brain is instant, visual, experiential and nonverbal.

The logical brain — the one you think with — is our prefrontal cortex, storing the facts to verbalize and rationalize a decision to yourself or others. The part of the brain that separates us from other mammals.

Importantly, every “logical” reason for a purchase is simply a rationalization for a decision that was made before you were even aware. Because your emotional brain has already made it.

But the answer is never “emotional or logical?” The answer is always both.

If you rely on the emotional part of the brain, you reliably undervalue the future. Life is short and we want what we want when we want it. The emotional brain also looks for patterns and creates them where none exist. This is the start of superstitions and many common beliefs or "kitchen logic" that we see in consumers every day. This is what happens when uninformed people try to "read" the stock market. The brain craves patterns and will invent them when absent.

Logic helps us plan, invest, see the big picture. The job of the prefrontal cortex is to regulate the emotional brain. Big problem here . . . the prefrontal cortex is easily confused and overloaded by too much data. Your conscious brain can only handle seven pieces of data in any one moment. Information overload leads to bad decisions.

We love the emotional enthusiast brain. We need the logical critical brain. Smart branding appeals to both.

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