Anger and Fear in Decision-Making: The Case of Film Directors on Set

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Anger and fear are frequently felt and impactful workplace emotions, especially in times of crisis when critical decisions need to be made. An important question is how these emotions might influence decision makers’ depth of processing: whether when feeling angry or fearful decision-makers engage in more conscious and analytical rational decision making, or less-conscious and heuristic intuitive decision making. To date research on the effect of these strong emotions has been limited to laboratory studies where the complexity and pressures of real-world managerial decisions are absent, and focused on generalized mood rather than on direct emotional experience. This study asks two research questions: Do anger and fear facilitate the use of intuitive or rational decision-making? And what is the impact of these emotions on decision effectiveness? We examine these phenomena in the crisis-laden field setting of film directors actively engaged in directing motion pictures. Data were gathered by shadowing and interviewing seven film directors. A qualitative analysis of the video and audio transcripts revealed that film directors engage in two types of intuitive decision-making, based on whether the decision was driven by expertise or personal emotional experience. Rational decision-making occurred when directors, driven by feelings of moderate fear and little previous experience with a situation, relied on a more conscious, deliberative decision-making process. Four types of decision effectiveness are identified: task, personal, growth, and leadership. The implications of emotion-driven decision-making on each of these types of effectiveness are explored.


Copyright 2011 Elsevier

Publication Title

European Management Journal

Published Citation

Coget, Jean-Francois, Haag, Christophe., & Gibson, Donald E. 'Anger and Fear in Decision-Making: The Case of Film Directors on Set.' European Management Journal 29(6) (2011): 476-490.



Peer Reviewed