We discussed in a previous post how we automatically assess the positiveness of a situation and the importance of such assessment. In our decision making process, it matters a lot to know if a situation is positive or negative. Or neutral. It may seem obvious, yet it is not. And there is more to it. Sometimes we know that a situation is negative, but it bothers us.. differently than other negative ones. We may go ahead and complicate things by adding endless context facts that justify the differences. Or we may resist this temptation and look at another simple aspect of positiveness: it’s intensity.
In a pragmatic world, the impact of a situation would be the sum of all the factual aspects and the consequences it entails. Strategic thinking is a pragmatic approach to processing the world, an approach that is rather close to stoicism, after all. But we are great fans of pragmatism applied to emotions and feelings and we are not afraid to assess and strategize not only factual impact, but the actual perception of it, that is directly linked to the intensity of its positive and negative aspects.
The perceived impact of an interaction reflects our physical and mental state, priorities of our core life values, or the importance of the people we interact with. It also reflects the fact that different people value different aspects and feel differently about similar factual consequences. Our cultural background, upbringing, the experiences we had – all of these external factors shape us, and influence our values and perception of the world we live in. And they reflect as perceived impact – in the intensity of the positiveness of a situation.
So we cannot talk about perceived impact without talking about emotion. Researchers argue that emotions are not to be used in evaluative judgements. However people do tend to focus on the immediate feeling that they have after a situation occurs, and this feeling has the power to override reason. We know that media uses images and titles which could have “a powerful emotional impact” with the purpose of framing messages that are meant to persuade people to adopt a certain perspective that is not always the most reasonable one.
Some deliberately ignore emotional impact out of fear of being “too sensitive” or because of social conditioning. However, the emotional perception of a situation exists and will continue to exist. It still plays an important epistemic role in decision making, even if it is not entirely being considered logical. Of course that it would be wiser to evaluate practical outcome according to goals and facts. But you should also be aware of the perceived impact of a situation and include it in your strategy. By accepting and being aware of it, you can control how much you want to allow it to influence your decision making. Our lives are only subjective perceptions anyway.
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