33 Embodied rationality

Brad C. Anderson

The previous two forms of rationality, disembedded and embedded, perceive rationality as separate from the self. Disembedded rationalities seek objective truths, whereas embedded rationalities depend on the social context.

, conversely, is derived from the self. This form of rationality argues we experience reality through our bodies. We perceive reality with our senses and process this sensory input with our brain. Our knowledge of the world, therefore, is the product of this bodily experience. There are three forms of embodied rationality: body, emotions, and ‘irrational’ subconscious.

Body Rationality

argues that we gain knowledge through our senses. Experience gained through our senses forms the basis of intuition, which is a fast-act of logical reasoning. Our intuition allows us to act in complex situations when we lack the time or data needed to process our options formally.

You may also hear people calling it ‘instinct’ or ‘gut feeling.’ Whatever you call it, body rationality is a form of reasoning we are often unable to put into words. It guides us when we must navigate dynamic and difficult situations.

Can You Trust Intuition?

Everyone has intuition, but how reliable is it? Is your gut feeling for how to treat an illness as trustworthy as your doctor’s? Is your intuition of what stock is a good investment as accurate as a professional stockbroker’s?

It turns out the odds of your intuition resulting in a favourable outcome increase with your expertise. When considering the next move in a chess game, a grandmaster’s intuition is more likely to result in a better outcome than an amateur.[1]

LESSON: Body rationality occurs when you integrate experiences into your repertoire of knowledge. Your mind can then draw from this repertoire of experience instantaneously when faced with similar problems in the future.

The more experience you have, the deeper the collection from which your mind draws when faced with these problems. This depth, in turn, leads to better decisions when compared to an amateur.

Emotional Rationality

Can emotions be rational? The dominating our society presumes that whereas the mind is rational, our passions are not.

Yet, inappropriate emotional responses to a situation–say, screaming in terror in a coffee shop–demand explanation. We judge whether a person’s emotional response is reasonable for the situation. If it is not, we accuse the person of acting ‘irrationally.’

Our emotions are a form of social communication. Through , we communicate what we feel to everyone in our social environment.

  • Observers use our emotional cues to assess our state of wellbeing.
  • They also use it to assess the status of the group. A scream of terror indicates the group is in danger; everyone shifts to high alert. Laughter suggests the group is safe, and so we can relax.

Our emotions are also a form of internal communication. They drive us to action and inform us of our preferences. Our emotions show us what ends we desire and the means we are willing to use to achieve them–they, in short, inform us of our values.

The ‘Irrational’ Subconscious

The is our psychological rather than objective reality. It is our response to situations that we have difficulty justifying. Our reaction to circumstances is not only based on objective reality but a lifetime of experiences that unconsciously influences our response. In organizational contexts, the ‘irrational’ subconscious manifests as corporate myths, unquestioned assumptions, belief systems, and rituals.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Embodied rationality is derived from the self. This form of rationality argues we experience reality through our bodies. We perceive reality with our senses and process this sensory input with our brain. Our knowledge of the world, therefore, is the product of this bodily experience. There are three forms of embodied rationality:
    • Body rationality
    • Emotional rationality
    • The ‘irrational’ subconscious

  1. Wan, X., Takano, D., Asamizuya, T., Suzuki, C., Ueno, K., Cheng, K., … Tanaka, K. (2012). Developing Intuition: Neural Correlates of Cognitive-skill Learning in Caudate Nucleus. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32(48), 17492–17501.

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Embodied rationality by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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