Here's a little theory I've been working on. Basically, it's my best stab so far at the expressing logic and decision making mathematically, and how emotion has historically gummed up the works.

Basically, when people try to express the decision making process mathematically, it doesn't work out well. I think I've found the flaw that keeps getting in the way. Basically, they're not treating emotions properly in the representation. Emotions have been shown to be of great importance in decision making, even for those decisions not generally considered emotional in nature. (There's an article in Discover magazine attesting to this) Usually, people try to symbolize emotions as a variable. I think that they shouldn't be expressed that way. Here's how I think it ought to go for the decision making process.

For example, deciding whether or not to cheat on an exam:

The known quantities/factors/circumstances would be expressed as the integers/constants of the equation. (numbers like 1, 57, 42 or constants like lambda, pi, you get the idea.)

1. Bob knows that he will fail the test on his own.

2. Bob knows that if he copies answers from Jill, who sits next to him in class, he'll pass, because she the smartest student in the class. (Whether or not this is actually the case is immaterial. He "knows" it to be true, which is all that matters in regards to his deciding).

3. Bob does not want to get busted.

4. Bob wants to pass the class.

The unknown factors, probabilities, and uncertainties would be expressed as variables.

1. The probability that Jill would notice he's copying.

2. The probability that the professor would.

3. The probability that anyone else would.

4. The probability that the similarity of answers would be noticed.

5. Basically, the odds and means of his getting busted.

C. The interactions of the two above categories would be the actions of the equation, aka the actually addition, subtraction, multiplication and division that goes on between integers and/or variables.

1. Probability of being observed cheating times the probability of the observer making this known to or being the professor would make one section of the equation.

2. Bob's desire to pass opposing his desire to risk certain failure would be another.

This is the point at which things break down in the metaphor, because most people would try to factor in Bob's emotions and feelings as variables because of their analog, precision-resistant nature. That's the mistake. Emotions are not "things" or "factors" themselves, actually. They're contextual in nature. When you feel good, you're more likely to do good, and vice-versa, to grossly over-simplify it.

I think that the emotions would be more accurately represented as the order of operations, known to math students as "PEMDAS" (Please Excuse My Deficient Algebra Skills).

The parenthesis and the brackets used in math are what determines the order in which one handles the various sections. The emotions and feelings of Bob determine his priorities in deciding whether or not to cheat. The important thing here is that his feelings aren't operators in the equation so much as they set up the order of operations, the mental milieu in which the decision is made. As any math student knows, screwing up the order of operations will knock the answer into a cocked hat. Similarly, Bob's emotional state has the ability to do the same to the viability of his decision. Note- This is all independent of morals or ethics, except as they apply internally to Bob.

His fear of getting busted would parenthesize the probability of her noticing and the probability of her reporting it. His fear of failure would put parenthesis around his desire to cheat and the choice of who to cheat from.

Basically, emotions and feelings aren't factors themselves in our decisions as much as we think. They are the context in which we weight the factors, the priorities we assign the individual factors and the groups of factors. They are the parenthesis, not the variables or integers. That's why we've never been able to reliably quantify them. Not because they are illogical, but because they are a fundamental part of logic itself. Because they are an aspect/foundation/milieu/context of the decision making process (logic, understanding, comprehension) itself, trying to make sense of them is like trying to study the microscopic aspects of the only microscope in the world.

[EDIT] -C'mon, people. Someone has to have some opinion or something on this. Even if you think it's the dumbest thing since helmets on skydivers, lemme know. I'm trying to figure out the world here, and I could use all the help I can get.

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