The Truth About Your Emotions When Making Decisions

Robert E. Gunther

A Little Adrenaline Can Be a Good Thing

Samuel Johnson once said, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” This can be true, particularly in critical, time-sensitive decisions. The adrenaline rush of the fight-or-flight response has kept human beings out of the jaws of saber-tooth tigers or allowed jet fighter pilots to pull out of a crash. Stress can lead to improved performance.

Decision making can improve under stress up to a point. It sharpens the mind and keeps us focused. But past that point, stress becomes counterproductive and leads to poor decisions. It results in an “inverted U,” where the benefits of stress level ...

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