top of page



Perrin Carey

12 May 2020 at 09:30:00

We, of course, don't just have five senses, we have many more than that. If this is true and if, as argued by many, that we are not good at ensuring our decisions are made using our cognitive brain, what are we going to do to change this?

Many would argue, as would I, that decision-making forms one of the fundamental elements supporting the operation and direction of a business.

Certainly, many well respected academics and practitioners in the field of governance hold 'good decision-making' to be a core requirement of 'good' governance.

If this is true,
Why is it that we spend so little time attending to the quality of our decisions?
Why do we often disregard the influence of being human on our decisions?
Why is it that when we look at governance, we spend most of our focus on its administrative function?

We like to believe that we are rational, highly cognitive beings. That we carefully consider the information before us and make decisions accordingly.

However, we are often more likely to make a decision based on how we feel about an idea, than the idea itself. This is because as an evolutionary species we have only recently developed our cognitive brains and perhaps, rather naively, ignore the strong influence that our primitive brain has on our decision-making.

Whilst the existence of Jacobson’s organ is argued, it is an interesting evolutionary left over. There are many academics that suggest this small almost insignificant organ has strong influences over how we make decisions.

Even if it doesn't, there is strong scientific evidence and many theories that demonstrate that as much as we like to believe our rationality, we struggle to keep our emotional and limbic areas of our brain under control when making decisions.

Of course, if our rational thought is not the main driver of our decisions and if we are not careful and don’t acknowledge this, we are in danger of making very poor decisions.

Decisions based on the tone of someone's voice,
Decisions based on how we happen to feel about our fellow director,
Decisions based on how the environment around us makes us feel.

And we do all this in our subconscious.

The more basic a sense, the more power is has over us and our decision making. An illustration of this is the famous Stroop Test.

Made famous by John Ridley Stroop in his publication in 1935, most of us will know this to be the 'colour/word' test. Where, when we try and say the word which is written in a different colour to the word itself, we find this exceptionally difficult.

The Stroop Test shows us that decision making slows down considerably when colours are mixed with the words. The cognitive part of our brain and the emotional, primitive part are conflicted and as a consequence decision-making and action is hugely compromised.

So, if all this is true, and there is a large body of evidence to suggest it is, the question remains,

What are you going to do about it?

bottom of page