Does ambivalance help to improve your problem-solving skills?

Posted on April 22, 2016

Some research has shown that ambivalence can lead to more cognitive flexibility and holistic, comprehensive solutions. But other research has linked ambivalence with poor decision-making.

To reconcile these findings, Cristiano Guarana and Morela Hernandez have theorized that in a real-life situation it’s not always clear where your emotional states arrive from, and if you feel ambivalent, but haven’t bottomed out why, you won’t give that complex situation the attention it needs… and worse, you could attribute your feelings to a peripheral situation that will needlessly suck up your attention. For ambivalence to be cognitively advantageous, the state must be tied to its source.

For their study, participants were first prompted to experience feelings of ambivalence by writing down a personal experience involving indifference or ambivalence. Following this, half the participants were warned that upcoming task could produce mixed reactions, priming them to recognize it as a source of ambivalence.

The main task involved participants reading a scenario about a fraudulent drug trial in which the researcher added made-up data points so he could release the drug to market. The participants then had to judge based on this limited information what happened next: whether they thought it was more likely that the drug was (a) withdrawn from the market, or (b) that it was withdrawn from the market after killing and injuring patients.

This is a classic decision-making conjunction problem, where the conjunction of two events is never more likely than either alone, but superficial thinking can lead us to assume the more specific is more likely. Participants who were not primed to see the test as a source of ambivalent feelings were more likely to give the wrong answer, while two out of three participants who were primed gave correct answers. This shows that the primed participants tied their ambivalent feelings to the drug trial scenario, and that this encouraged them to pay more attention to it.

The takeaway message from this study is that when you’re feeling a muss of conflicted feelings, take a step back and identify where that message is coming from. Do so, and you authorise your mind to attend to it in the best possible way.

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Emotional Intelligence

Source material from Research Digest

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