You are currently viewing Decision-making



1) No, decision-making isn't "rational"!

Above all, we need to overcome a preconceived notion inherited from Descartes. All “rational” decision-making is not really rational, but results from the interaction between the cognitive and the emotional, which combine and complement each other! At the cognitive level, it’s the PREFRONTAL CORTEX that enables us to evaluate several options¹. At the emotional level, it’s the TONSIL, the INSULA, or the ENTERIC NERVOUS SYSTEM² (our brain in our belly!) among others, which send emotional signals, and inform the decision based on past experiences and the current context, for example.
Brain anatomy
In a more dynamic vision, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman shows that two systems coexist to make a decision³ :
  • SYSTEM 1 is fast, automatic and relies on biases or “mental shortcuts” to make decisions ;
  • SYSTEM 2, on the other hand, is slower, more deliberate and more analytical.
This has led to the identification of over 180 cognitive biases involved in business and economic decisions. 
Motivation Femmes & Hommes

Proportion of system 1 and system 2 involvement in sentimental and professional life choices. System 1 is significantly more involved in the sentimental domain (M = 5.3) than in the professional domain (M = 4.7), while System 2 is significantly more involved in the professional domain (M = 5.3) than in the sentimental domain (M = 4).

2) Making the "right" decision: a matter of balance

So whether our emotions intervene for better or worse in decision-making, researchers agree on one thing: we need to aim for a balance between emotional signals and cognitive analysis . In other words:
    • NEITHER TOO LITTLE EMOTION : This means that if there are lesions in brain regions involved in emotional processing, researchers have shown that we can’t properly assess gains and risks – even if cognitive abilities are intact.
    • NOR TOO MUCH EMOTION : When we’re overwhelmed by emotion, our automatic mode and biases take over our capacity to reason. Daniel Kahneman has highlighted the cognitive bias of loss aversion: humans tend to consider a loss more important than a gain, on the order of 2.5 x more. In the context of economic decision-making, this translates into less risk-taking for fear of losing our investment. This discovery earned Kahneman the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.
We might as well face the fact that major decisions, whether in the private sphere or at work, are the result of both our emotions and our cognition. It’s up to us to find the right dose in each specific case!

3) We have the power! Taking a step back and becoming self-aware

NeuroTip #1: Cultivate your meta position Houdé says , the brain is provided with an INHIBITORY CONTROL SYSTEM which helps individuals to overcome automatic responses and focus on relevant information. This inhibitory control system is particularly important for high-level cognitive processes such as PROBLEM SOLVING AND DECISION MAKING Clearly, by being more aware of our biases, and more conscious of our emotions, we have the power to regulate the balance between emotion and cognition in decision-making. It’s even a region of the prefrontal cortex that develops, as can be seen on brain imaging!
When it comes to making an important decision, take a 5-minute break from your Excel spreadsheets and ask yourself: what’s driving my decision? What am I afraid of losing? 

NeuroTip #2 : Decide as a team, and adopt the right method!

Team decision-making helps to develop perspective and reduce biases. At least if certain conditions are respected.

Researchers have tested various hypotheses about what makes team decisions effective, and demonstrate that the best decisions are made if we MAXIMIZE SHARING within the group: sharing expertise, positive as well as negative feedback, or even responsibilities.

Need to decide on an investment, a major team change, or the launch of a new product line? Follow the 5 golden rules of shared team decision-making:


Expertise Omind
Ask at least 2 experts to conduct the analysis in parallel, to get a more complete picture of the problem and potential solutions.


Challenge Omind

Explicitly allow everyone to question expert assumptions and biases, reducing the risk of error.


Share responsibilities and workloads to reduce pressure on individual decision-makers.


Engage everyone in providing emotional support and positive feedback, improving group morale and motivation and reducing the risk of groupthink.


Retours d'expériences Omind

Quickly review the decision-making process to improve the team’s overall performance.

NeuroTip #3 : Embrace your talents through games and neuroscience

Experience and train your self-awareness, emotions and cognition with our Omind Neurotechnologies programs.


A good example comes from neurobiologist Francisco Varela⁸ who, in his book Quel savoir pour quelle éthique ?  explains that the right level for making “wise” decisions would be at a balance point between RATIONAL AND REFLECTED APPROACH (system 2) and AUTOMATIC, INTUITIVE AND BIAIZED DECISION MAKING (system 1).

This balance point would be shifted slightly towards system 1, which would allow decisions to be made quickly without too much energy, but would not be too biased.

Varela gives the example of a chess player who plays without being “conscious” of all the mechanisms involved in identifying the best move to make. But after playing, he is able to explain rationally why he made that particular move.

System 1, 2 and 3
¹ Bechara, A., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. R. (2000). Emotion, decision making and the orbitofrontal cortex. Cerebral cortex, 10(3), 295-307.
² Jeanne, R., Piton, T., Minjoz, S., Bassan, N., Le Chenechal, M., Semblat, A., … & Pellissier, S. (2023). Gut-Brain Coupling and Multilevel Physiological Response to Biofeedback Relaxation After a Stressful Task Under Virtual Reality Immersion: A Pilot Study. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 48(1), 109-125.
³ Kahneman, D. (2003). Maps of bounded rationality: Psychology for behavioral economics. American economic review, 93(5), 1449-1475.
Savioni, L., Triberti, S., Durosini, I., & Pravettoni, G. (2022). How to make big decisions: A cross-sectional study on the decision making process in life choices. Current Psychology, 1-14.
Houdé, O. (2020). L’inhibition au service de l’intelligence (p. 182). Puf.
Cassotti, M., Agogué, M., Camarda, A., Houdé, O., & Borst, G. (2016). Inhibitory control as a core process of creative problem solving and idea generation from childhood to adulthood. New directions for child and adolescent development, 2016(151), 61-72.
De Andreis, F. (2020). A theoretical approach to the effective decision-making process. Open Journal of Applied Sciences, 10(6), 287-304.
⁸ Varela, F. (1996.). Quel savoir pour l’éthique ? Paris : La Découverte.