Why most people think with emotion over reason


Kevin Mangelschots

Humans often pride themselves on being rational and logical individuals. But unbeknownst to a lot of us, we are still highly irrational and susceptible to our feelings. Common sense is something quite rare these days indeed.

I would even dare say that most people think with emotion over reason. However, whether they know they do is a different story.




Why do people often think with emotions over logic?

Illustration of a man thinking rationally, and an elephant thinking with emotions.

Most people tend to think with emotions over reason because even though humans pride themselves for being intelligent and logical, we’re still highly irrational and prone to our emotions. This can lead to a subjective decision-making process driven mainly by our current emotional state.

That’s also why I think we need to learn to think with reason over emotions, to learn and balance our intuition with our logic.

Think of it this way, the conscious mind consists of reason and logical thought, while the subconscious mind comprises our emotions and feelings.

Our emotions are a primal force and are leftovers from an ancient time. They serve as powerful motivators to regulate and, more importantly, initiate behavior.


For example, feeling hungry will initiative the behavior to search for food. Before, in the hunter-gatherer society, this would lead to hunting animals and gathering berries and other edibles in order to satisfy our hunger and thus, survive as a result.

In our modern, peaceful times, we simply go to the fridge or cook a delicious meal to satisfy that craving. But, the intention remains the same. That feeling of hunger triggers a deliberate action that allows us to survive as individuals, and as a species. Because without food and water, we don’t last long.


Another powerful emotion is fear. And while we generally dislike fear because of the anxiety, uncertainty, and overall unpleasant vibe it induces, it can serve a real survival purpose.

An innate fear of snakes and spiders, for example, is a remnant of an important survival function. In the wild, before our modern-day society was established, poisonous spiders and snakes were a large and significant cause of human deaths.

This unconditioned fear made us weary of the fact that these animals could be deathly to us. As a result, we stayed away from these wild animals, or were at the very least much more cautious and attentive of these animals that could kill us. So again, fear can serve a vital survival function.

Once more, emotions can be a viable way to keep us alive. They do have an indispensable function. But sometimes, our emotions entirely take over our rational thoughts, which can be a detriment at times. Especially since times have changed a staggering amount compared to before.

Fear of the unknown

Let me give you another illustration.

Fear of the unknown might have saved us from dangers before and kept us alive as a result. But these days, life is much safer. There’s less burglary, rape, murder, and people generally live together much more peacefully and cooperatively than before.

If we avoid what is unknown, then we can’t grow from these life experiences. If we want to make progress in, let’s say, science, then we must do that by venturing into the unknown in order to be able to make new discoveries that can improve life and our health as a result.


Picture of a woman looking angry with steam coming out of her ears.

Another instance is the emotion anger.

Before, let’s say in the Stone Age, when someone angered us, we would typically fight to subdue that person, often times killing them in the process. Of course, this was a never ending cycle, and tribes would often fight against other times on a regular basis.

Today, we have learned to use our rational thoughts in order to temper and override our anger and willingness to harm others to maintain a peaceful and cooperative society.

Just imagine how our society would look like if we would constantly act upon our feelings such as anger and vengeance. Life would be chaos and much less safe than it would be now.

So sometimes, these emotions can have a negative impact as well. And our higher cognitive functions such as our rational thoughts are necessary in order to “override” these feelings.

We can conclude that sometimes, thinking with logic over emotion is beneficial and even necessary to counteract our subconscious mind.

On another note, internalizing a lot of these negative emotions for an extended period of time wreak havoc on our emotional and physical wellbeing. They’re not healthy emotions, certainly not in the long term, to say the least.


Combining logic and emotion

Illustration of a scale with a brain on the left and a heart on the right, signifying rational thoughts and following your heart.

But more importantly, I think we must learn to incorporate and combine our logical thinking with our emotions. Both our emotions and rational thoughts are important to make good decisions that will benefit us.

The reason I say incorporate our logical thinking into thinking with our feelings is because emotions have existed for a long time before higher executive functions such as logical, rational, abstract thoughts, and problem-solving behavior even came into play.

That means that we frequently know intuitively what’s right and wrong, and what’s the objective truth and what’s not. A lot of our observations and thinking happens subconscious, outside our conscious awareness. But that doesn’t make it any less essential.

As a matter of fact, could you imagine having to take all external stimuli in consciously? We would get overwhelmed at a rapid pace. Imagine having to consciously think about the time, the weather, the people around you, what they’re wearing, how they’re behaving, how they smell,… It’s a good thing we have a well functioning subconscious mind.



Image of a hand holding a card with the word “conclusions” written in blue.

Thinking with emotion over reason isn’t always a bad thing, but, to make thoughtful decisions, we must learn to think with reason over emotions as well. However, learning to think with logic over feelings is extremely hard, especially for those that rely primarily on their intuition to make decisions.

I think that in order to make our best decisions, we must learn to incorporate what our intuition says, and combine it with our logical thinking in order to come to the appropriate consensus.

Relying strictly on our reason to make our decisions might not be the best choice either. We’re humans, and our feelings matter. That’s why we should consult both our feelings and our reason before making an important decision.

Logical thinking of the conscious mind and thinking with our feelings from the subconscious mind should learn to work together, as both have valuable things to say and teach us.


Call to action

If you’re someone that’s highly in tune with your emotions, and thus mainly uses your intuition to make decisions, consider consulting your rational thoughts before making choices. Try to apply logic over reason to remain objective.

“What would be the logical, rational thing to do”, is a simple, yet great question to engage your common sense.

Use this question to train your conscious, rational mind in order to learn to utilize your logic in your decision-making process.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t want you to use the intuition of your subconscious mind. I want people to combine their intuition with their logical thinking in order to give everyone the chance to make their best possible decision.