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J Med Philos. 2013 Oct;38(5):501-19. doi: 10.1093/jmp/jht040. Epub 2013 Aug 24.

The role of emotions in clinical reasoning and decision making.

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*Department of Philosophy, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798, USA.


What role, if any, should emotions play in clinical reasoning and decision making? Traditionally, emotions have been excluded from clinical reasoning and decision making, but with recent advances in cognitive neuropsychology they are now considered an important component of them. Today, cognition is thought to be a set of complex processes relying on multiple types of intelligences. The role of mathematical logic (hypothetico-deductive thinking) or verbal linguistic intelligence in cognition, for example, is well documented and accepted; however, the role of emotional intelligence has received less attention-especially because its nature and function are not well understood. In this paper, I argue for the inclusion of emotions in clinical reasoning and decision making. To that end, developments in contemporary cognitive neuropsychology are initially examined and analyzed, followed by a review of the medical literature discussing the role of emotions in clinical practice. Next, a published clinical case is reconstructed and used to illustrate the recognition and regulation of emotions played during a series of clinical consultations, which resulted in a positive medical outcome. The paper's main thesis is that emotions, particularly in terms of emotional intelligence as a practical form of intelligence, afford clinical practitioners a robust cognitive resource for providing quality medical care.


clinical decision making; clinical reasoning; cognitive neuropsychology; emotional intelligence; implicit self; multiple intelligences; quality medical care; right-left brain asymmetry

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