Is it Better to be Rational or Emotional?

The answer might surprise you.


Scroll down through Twitter and you will find a war between the Rational and Emotional warriors. “Don’t trust someone who’s emotional,” “think before you act,” “follow your intuition,” “trust your gut.”

Have you ever wonder who is right?

The truth is, both are… kind of. Despite the polar war, our minds don’t work in an all-or-nothing principle. Instead, it works employing both modes of reasoning at the same time, one is deliberative, the other intuitive. Psychologists call this the Dual Process Theory.

The Dual Process Theory involves two systems.

On the one hand, System 1 is intuitive and emotional. It reacts to things fast and automatically and uses your past experiences and rules of thumb to make quick evaluations about what’s going on. This is the system where that “gut feeling” comes from. It is pretty effective for familiar situations.

On the other hand, System 2 is deliberate and rational. It is slow, focused, and self-aware. Most people conceive of it as “thinking”. You use this system when you need to analyze and handle unfamiliar complex situations.

They can work independently, in parallel, and can even disagree with each other.

So when should you use them?

Since we usually talk a lot about building better habits over here, it’s good to know what kind of system is working when it’s time to build your new habits.



Table Based on a model from Stephen Wendel’s book Designing for Behavior Change

As you can see, there is a vast array of the spectrum that we can work on. Each one demands a different kind of focus.

When a habit is new and unknown, we shouldn’t worry so much about making it automatic. Instead, we should educate ourselves bout it, learn how it works, how how to make it simple and easy, and only then focus on how to build associations, develop strategies to build the habit, and reach the point of automation.

It’s a lot to digest so I’ll leave you here for today.

Remember, there’s no need to be like people on Twitter. There’s no war going on around you. You can be rational, you can be emotional and you can be both at the same time. It’s called The Dual-Process Theory, baby! Just understand at which section of the spectrum you find yourself in and apply more of the midframe required for where you're at. It might be thinking, intuition, or both at the same time.

Hope you find it useful and talk to you soon,

Lucas Napier Better Habits, Better Health

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