The Pain and Pleasure in Rational Decisions

A lot of motivational speakers talk about pain and pleasure; how we are constantly about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Well in the latest audiobook I started, the author talks about how all decisions are made based on pain and pleasure and then rationally/logically justified. He made it sound like it is impossible to make a rational decision.

I have heard this before from some people involved in hypnosis. When you give a subject a post-hypnotic suggestion to take a certain action, and then later ask them why they took the action, they try to rationally justify it. There are even studies that show the rational-logical parts of the brain don’t even engage until after a decision is made.

Now I would argue the snap decisions are based on programming the subconscious using our experience and evaluations of those experiences, but that’s another conversation.

But this got me thinking, and yes every decision we make is based on pain or pleasure.

Especially the RATIONAL ones.

When you are making a rational decision, you are considering all of the pains and pleasures involved. Only we usually frame it in terms of “pros” and “cons”. Pros are pleasures we will gain and pains we will lose; cons are pains we will gain and pleasures we will lose. We make an evaluation of all the pros and cons and then decide.

It would be illogical and irrational to make a decision without considering pains and pleasures.

Pain and pleasure don’t make decisions. They are simply values we place on the outcome of an action. When they say pain or pleasure make the decision, I think they mean when you only consider the short term pain/pleasure to decide.

There are many decisions that people make that only consider the short term pain or pleasure and not the long term. Eat that super-size chocolate sundae for dessert – pleasure. Go out drinking instead of going to the workout class at the gym -pleasure. I don’t think I need to explain to anyone why the long term effects of both of those decisions are pains.

A logical decision is made when someone considers both the short term and long term ramifications of the decision. And each decision is different for each person because the level of pain and pleasure are different. For example, an extremely fit person who exercises regularly will receive less long term pain from the chocolate sundae than a person who is very overweight and never exercises.

Every decision does involve please or pain. They are how we grade the outcome. And we use those to help us decide future events. Rational, logical decisions are made when we consider both short-term and long-term pains and pleasures. Irrational, illogical decisions are the ones we make when we only consider the immediate results.