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A weekly reality check on sensible investing and financial decision-making for Canadians. Hosted by Benjamin Felix and Cameron Passmore.

Mar 3, 2022

It is commonly believed that rational thought is threatened by emotion, but contemporary understandings of the brain paint a more complicated picture. Today’s guest is Leonard Mlodinow and he joins us to talk about why. As a mathematician and theoretical physicist, Leonard might seem like an odd fit for this topic at first glance. However, when Leonard’s desire to discover the secrets of the universe spilled over into a curiosity about the brain, he started publishing books on the subject, his most recent being Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking. In today’s show, Leonard argues that the brain is essentially an information processing organ and that emotions play an integral role in feeding it data. As such, there is no way to separate emotions from thinking, and in fact, they often aid the decision-making process, as well as play a vital role in motivating us. However, our emotions evolved in a different world to the one we live in today, meaning that there are situations where a certain emotion might be influencing a decision in a way we don’t want, and this is where the cultivation of emotional intelligence becomes a beneficial practice. So for all of this, as well as perspectives on its ramifications for sensible investing, be sure to tune in today!


Key Points From This Episode:


  • Introducing Leonard Mlodinow and his book, Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking. [0:00:19]
  • The role of emotions in rational decision-making. [0:01:04]
  • How the brain processes data and the role of emotions in this process. [0:04:09]
  • Whether emotions are detrimental to decision making. [0:06:50]
  • The situations our emotions evolved in and how our world has changed. [0:09:05]
  • Whether it is wise or possible to separate emotions from rational thinking. [0:11:50]
  • New findings from affective neuroscience about emotion. [0:13:36]
  • Why simplistic categorizations of emotions and beliefs that they are associated with certain organs are wrong. [0:14:51]
  • What ‘core affect’ is, its relationship to emotion, and how it affects decision making. [0:18:36]
  • How to gauge when to make certain kinds of decisions. [0:22:12]
  • What Leonard’s findings on emotion mean for evaluating risk tolerance in investment. [0:24:00]
  • What role emotions play in theoretical physics and mathematics. [0:26:28]
  • Wanting, liking, and determination: Where the feeling of motivation comes from. [0:30:45]
  • How to develop emotional intelligence by cultivating awareness of how emotions affect decision-making. [0:34:21]
  • Whether some emotions are more influential than others. [0:37:57]
  • What causes people to have different emotional profiles. [0:39:41]
  • How other people’s emotions affect us. [0:42:14]
  • Considerations about the impact of a financial advisor’s emotional profile on their clients.[0:44:24]
  • When and how to control emotions versus embrace them. [0:45:43]
  • Why Leonard wrote Emotional when he is a theoretical physicist and mathematician. [0:50:24]
  • How Leonard defines success in his life. [0:52:14]