In May I read a fantastic book called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It is about how and why some people survive extreme situations. The book describes a lot of the psychology of decision-making. It says that linear/logical thinking (associated with the neocortex of the brain) is terrible for making decisions. Instead, people rely on ‘emotional bookmarks’ to make decisions. ‘Emotional bookmarks’ are not just the brain, they involve much of the body. It turns out that ‘my gut tells me to do this’ and ‘my heart tells me to do this’ are not just figurative speech; the digestive organs and/or heart might be literally involved in the decision-making process. Animals with relatively few neurons in their brains can make decisions because it is not just the brain.
There are people with neurological damage who cannot use ‘emotional bookmarks’ or feel ‘gut feelings’ or their ‘heart’. They can still use logical/linear thought processes just fine, yet their ability to make decisions is severely impaired which means, for example, that they cannot schedule appointments.
I’ll give you an example of how I use emotional bookmarks vs. linear thinking. Right now, it is May 22 and I am aboard the M/V Kennicott (yeah, this post is going to be posted way after this is written). I told myself that I was going to start writing this post hours ago, but instead, I ended up working on a jigsaw puzzle. I did not think to myself ‘I am going to play with the jigsaw puzzle instead of turning on my computer and writing a blog post’. I just … played with the jigsaw puzzle. That is because I have an emotional bookmark which says ‘jigsaw puzzle are fun’ and so, when I pass by the area with the jigsaw puzzles, I end up playing with them instead of writing this blog post (though I eventually managed to pull myself away from the jigsaw puzzle and start writing this). Continue reading