The Emotional Choice of Pen Colour Part 2/6

Originally a Facebook post for Mental Health Month, 9.10.18

Part 1: The prequel to this post which explains some of the following content

We may fail to conceive of certain behaviours as emotional, but does our lack of concept make them unemotional, or does it just mean that we’ve failed to recognise what’s actually happening? ‘A rose by any other name’…

The specific examples I gave in my first post were randomly generated and the specifics are actually irrelevant to my overall point- my point is a thinking point. The examples are meant to be stimuli to compel enquiry, reflection and questioning. But, if some of my examples seemed abstract, let me explain:


  • Possible emotional motivators: insecurity, inadequacy, fear?
  • Emotional goal: safety or relief from these feelings?

TV Show Choice

  • Possible emotional motivators: Liking, interest, preference, mood?
  • Emotional goal: to satisfy want, desire, preference?

One-upmanship in an Argument

  • Possible emotional motivators: Feeling threatened, stupid, intimidated, feeling inferior?
  • Emotional goal: to feel right, to impress, to win, to gain validation?

Walking to Catch the Sun

  • Possible emotional motivators: Liking, preference, desire, sensory pleasure?
  • Emotional goal: to satisfy want, desire, gain reward?


  • Possible emotional motivators: Frustration, anger, wanting control?
  • Emotional goal: self-expression, gaining control?

Snooze Button

  • Possible emotional motivators: desire, fatigue, comfort?
  • Emotional goal: to satisfy desire, maintain comfort?

Mental Preoccupation with Others’ Opinions

  • Possible emotional motivators: Insecurity, feeling judged, feeling disliked, feeling misunderstood?
  • Emotional goal: to prove wrong, to protect a sense of self, to gain agreement?

Aaaaaand… Choosing Pen Colour (what??)

This comes from research that people with damage to some emotional networks in the brain have difficulty making decisions about the most banal things including, in one instance, choosing between a blue or black pen (see attached article).

(If the above list seems disembodied, see Part 1: The prequel to this post which explains the context)

It seems that having to rely solely on rational processes makes decisions laborious.

Who ever in their life associated their choice of pen colour as being an emotional decision? I myself have a complete lack of awareness of my emotional motivations for choosing a blue or black pen and my conscious explorations have come up with nothing except ‘I like that colour’- there is no reason I can identify for my feeling of ‘like’.

I’ve never cried over getting the blue pen, wanted to marry the black pen, or started an argument with either, because, well, emotions mustn’t all be so blatant.

So, if this is the case, and emotions are actually functional and necessary for everyday, unremarkable actions what else follows from this? If choosing pen colour has an emotional component without any awareness or sometimes ability to become aware, how much else in our moment-to-moment existence could be fundamentally dependent on our emotions?

This in itself, as well as a vast and growing body of science suggests that the reality of humans is that emotions are constant, ubiquitous and highly misunderstood in our cultural and intellectual conception.

If this is the case, it seems plausible that much dysfunction might arise from remaining ignorant to the inherent operation of human beings, as this ignorance may have had us attempting to work against our immutable functioning.

For an overly simplistic analogy, if you interact with a car engine like you would a bicycle, things aren’t going to work very well are they? And who would try this? That… would be… Irrational

Later I will muse on what some of the functional consequences of our misunderstood emotionality could be. For now here’s some pop-science outlining some evidence for the emotion-reason symbiosis:

Article link: Feeling our way to decision

Other posts in The Emotional Choice of Pen Colour Series:

2 thoughts on “The Emotional Choice of Pen Colour Part 2/6

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