Rational emotions

Meir Meshulam, Eyal Winter*, Gershon Ben-Shakhar, Itzhak Aharon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


We present here the concept of rational emotions: Emotions may be directly controlled and utilized in a conscious, analytic fashion, enabling an individual to size up a situation, to determine that a certain "mental state" is strategically advantageous and adjust accordingly. Building on the growing body of literature recognizing the vital role of emotions in determining decisions, we explore the complementary role of rational choice in choosing emotional states. Participants played the role of "recipient" in the dictator game, in which an anonymous "dictator" decides how to split an amount of money between himself and the recipient. A subset of recipients was given a monetary incentive to be angry at low-split offers. That subset demonstrated increased physiological arousal at low offers relative to high offers as well as more anger than other participants. These results provide a fresh outlook on human decision-making and contribute to the continuing effort to build more complete models of rational behavior.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Decision-making
  • Dictator game
  • Emotion regulation
  • Rationality
  • Skin conductance response


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