Thinking is optimal when we use emotions and rational thought

“Descartes walks into a bar and orders a drink. He sips it for a while, and when he is finished, the bartender asks him if he’d like another. Descartes says, ‘I think not’, and disappears.”

For well over 300 years, Western society has given rational thought primacy over emotions. ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ (Rene Descartes, I think, therefore I am, OED). Almost as if “the mechanisms of reason existed in a separate province of the mind, where emotion should not be allowed to intrude” (Damasio, 1996, introduction)

This means we’ve tended to give more importance to hard numbers – Quantitative Research that provides answers to the questions of how many, how much, how often.

Emotions, on the other hand, are downgraded and viewed as somewhat suspect and rather too, well, emotional.

Even so, I was surprised to learn that the efficacy of Qualitative Research has been debated in ‘paradigm wars’ within the educational research community for about four decades. (Johnson & Christensen, 2014, ch.2)

Whereas Quantitative Research tells us the numbers (Who eats yoghurt how many times a week), Qualitative Research asks about the why (Why do you eat yoghurt –  for health reasons, because it’s a tasty snack, or to show off?).

Both Quantitative and Qualitative Research are so imperative in advertising, it’s nearly unfathomable to think of an approach that involves anything less than a combination of both. Regardless, the research method should be driven by the type of answers or guidance you want.

But just in case you had any lingering doubts, in the paradigm shifting book, Descatres Error, Antonio Damasio presents evidence that emotion and rational thought are “part and parcel of the workings of the normal mind’ (Damasio, 1996 p. 118). This, of course, would suggest that there is a valid and important place for both Quantitative and Qualitative Research.

Which if great if you don’t know whether or not you want a refill.


Damasio, A., 1996. Descartes Error. Random House.

Descartes, R. (n.d.). OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/descartes-rene

Johnson, R.B., and Christensen, L. (2014). Educational Research: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Approaches. Sage Publishing.

Descartes joke, (n.d.) nata2,com project, 2006. Creative commons licensed work. Retrieved from http://jokesareawesome.com/joke/963/descartes_walks_into_a_bar_and_orders_a… )