Never Underestimate the Power of Emotion


We like to think that we employ reason to make most decisions—especially the important ones.

But as behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Dan Ariely have demonstrated repeatedly, we act far more irrationally than we would ever like to believe.

Emotion, in fact, trumps reason in many of our decisions. A terrific metaphor developed by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (as told in Chip and Dan Heath’s “Switch”):  

“Our emotional side is [like an] elephant and our rational side is its rider. The rider seems to be the leader. But the rider’s control is precarious… [because] anytime the six-ton elephant and the rider disagree about which direction to go, the rider is going to lose.”

Over the past few days, the Democratic party has put this philosophy to work at its convention, employing the “elephant” to restore faith in its candidate—and reenergize the spirit of Democratic voters. 

It’s unclear whether the Democrat in the saddle will know what to do now that the pachyderm is in motion. But if the rider and beast can work together—and forge a credible path for the four years ahead—the GOP is in for an emotional letdown on November 6.

Forget “I Gotta Feeling.” The Democratic Convention’s theme song should have been “Emotional Rescue.”