A 2013 study published in Psychological Science suggests that understanding both the source and the relevance of your emotions can have a serious effect on how much those emotions can sway your decision-making.
Not only that, this understanding may affect your willingness to take risks as well.
According to the study’s co-author Stephane Cote, professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, many people make decisions based on emotional reactions that have nothing to do with the decision itself.
In fact, the emotions usually come from emotional traffic they’ve experienced earlier in the day. However, people with higher emotional intelligence tend to be insulated from these emotional influences.
The study was conducted in two parts. During the first, participants who had lower emotional intelligence showed that anxiety unrelated to a decision about risk could affect their decision-making. Participants with higher emotional intelligence did not experience this effect.
During the second part of the experiment, participants who had lower emotional intelligence were made aware that their anxiety wasn’t related to the decision they were trying to make. Once aware, these participants were then also able to block the unrelated emotions.
According to Professor Cote, these results suggest that it’s best to avoid making decisions right away when you’re feeling anxious – especially when the anxiety is likely not related to the decision itself. The same can be true for positive emotions (such as excitement) as well.
This doesn’t mean that you should try to make decisions free of any emotional influence – just that you should be sure that your emotions are actually related and relevant to the decision being made.