Emotions and Planning
Urban Planning & Policy Program, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at
Chicago, Chicago, USA
ABSTRACT Planning analysts taught to separate cognitive and emotional qualities of judgment
tend to study cognitive rather than emotional relationships. Psychological research on planning
emphasizes the cognitive over the emotional, while social psychological research studies the effects of
cognitive emotional interaction on planning judgment. This article argues that planning analysts
might combine cognitive and emotional ideas about planning using research insights from the work
of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and the conceptual insights from the work of philosopher
Martha Nussbaum. Two brief planning episodes illustrate the relevance of such integration for
studying and understanding the kind of planning judgments practitioners make in their everyday
Keywords: Emotions; planning judgment; planning practice; pragmatic planning; cognitive planning
Objectivity versus Sensitivity
When professional planners make plans they judge the value of current acts in relation to
future consequences. They construct pathways for intentions tied to future expectations
that anticipate and evaluate these consequences. Planning analysts and practitioners pay
close attention to these pathways, studying how the beliefs people hold carry them along
this path from concept to intention and intention to action. Analysts study whether and
how environmental, political, social, economic and cultural inﬂuences shape beliefs as
descriptions or guides. Practitioners seek to understand how people comprehend beliefs
about the future and how the plans practitioners make may modify these beliefs. Both
emphasize the role of ideas, thinking and argument in plans that link knowledge with
purposeful action. Urban plans rely on rational judgment.
However, attention, perception and reﬂection used in planning judgment also rely upon
emotional dispositions and sensitivity. The practical activity people engage in when
learning and adopting a belief involves more than cognitive judgment about the value of
the belief (its truthfulness or goodness). The activity draws upon emotions and feelings
(its meaning and signiﬁcance). Most people recognize that emotions and feelings shape
beliefs. The desires and preferences we hold direct our attention, motivate our interests,
compel our assent and alert us to risks. Yet, despite the ubiquity of emotions and feelings,
planning practitioners and analysts rarely focus on them as a resource for comprehending
future oriented, purposeful action. Practitioners and analysts learn to treat emotions as a
source of bias and distortion. They need to control their emotions lest feelings bias their
Correspondence Address: Charles Hoch, Urban Planning & Policy Program, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs,
University of Illinois at Chicago, CUPPA Hall, 412 South Peoria, Chicago, Illinois 60607, USA. Tel: 312-996-2156; Fax:
312-413-2314. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Planning Theory & Practice, Vol. 7, No. 4, 367–382, December 2006
1464-9357 Print/1470-000X On-line/06/040367-16 q2006 Taylor & Francis
Two arguments justify the strategy of detachment. First, the inﬂuential method of
experimental scientiﬁc inquiry relegates emotions and feelings to an inferior role in
human judgment. Emotions and feelings in this view undermine the quality of intellectual
judgment (Forgas, 1990; Goldie, 2005). The metaphor of hard science denotes this kind of
inquiry. Hard implies indifference to the force of passion. Professional planners reﬂect this
outlook embracing expert judgment that relies upon a cool and precise reason that keeps
affect at bay. Planning analysts similarly discourage rhetorical expressions of emotional
signiﬁcance in the organization and reporting of research. This is the objectivity approach.
Second, paralleling and complementing the objectivity tradition is another that directly
studies how emotions and feelings inﬂuence cognition. These analysts (psychologists,
neurophysiologists and social scientists) conceive the impacts of instincts, drives and
feelings as pressures originating from physiological and psychological conditions and
social experience (Elster, 1996; Forgas & Smith, 2003; Rolls, 2000). Analysts who study the
effects of emotions and feelings on cognitive judgment retain the hard methods of
experimental science. These analysts argue that although we cannot easily avoid or control
emotional impacts on our judgment, we can learn how to adapt, modify and channel them
to improve the quality of the cognitive judgment we make to guide successful action. This
is the sensitivity approach. In the ﬁrst approach emotions must be identiﬁed and
controlled in order to plan objectively; in the second emotions must be identiﬁed and
tamed to reduce emotional bias on plans.
Objectivity encourages planners to frame beliefs about the future using concepts that
exclude emotions and feelings entirely. Sensitivity prepares planners to anticipate and
channel emotional responses to future plans. These views show up as distinct styles in the
planning enterprise. Objectivity is adopted when a planning study is conducted of
existing conditions, demographic trends etc, abstracting from sources of emotional bias to
focus exclusively on the quality of cognitive judgments. We offer scientiﬁc ﬁndings and
expect our audience to believe these ﬁndings on the basis of logical argument and
evidence. Sensitivity comes to the fore as planners anticipate emotional responses to the
analysis of problems and the evaluation of alternatives, adopting compensatory
adjustments that minimize the impacts of feelings and passion. Here planners use
images, construct narratives and adopt graphic symbols that attract and channel the
emotional attachments of the relevant audience. Planners use the analysis of emotional
effects to anticipate and avoid undesirable emotional responses on the part of the
Research Study of Cognition and Emotions
Urban planners study complex social and institutional plans and planning, drawing on
a wide variety of professional (e.g. engineering, architecture) and social science (e.g.
economics, geography, sociology) disciplines. The systematic study of human emotions
and their impact takes place in disciplines less familiar to planning analysts; psychology,
social psychology, neurophysiology, philosophy and literature. This section of the article
brieﬂy summarizes some experimental research conducted by psychologists and social
psychologists to frame the objectivity –sensitivity contrast and then uses work by the
neurophysiologist Antonio Damasio and philosopher Martha Nussbaum to frame a
pragmatic combination of the two.
Framing the contrast between feeling and thinking informs strategic accounts of
emotional manipulation and control. Cognitive psychologists study the relationships
between the psychological and physiological dimensions of planning. Using experimental
368 C. Hoch
methods, the cognitive psychologists study the relationship between select cognitive
problem-solving tasks and select physiological (e.g. brain damage), psychological (e.g.
prior learning) or social (e.g. status) conditions. Social psychologists adopt similar
methods, but focus on social and emotional dimensions of cognitive planning tasks. Both
disciplines adopt a strong analytic distinction between aspects of emotion and cognition.
Both use this distinction to analyze how individual people plan on their own and in
relation to others.
Cognitive Psychology of Planning
In their recent book surveying the cognitive psychology of planning Robin Morris and
Geoff Ward (2005) describe plans as cognitive activity used to achieve a goal. For decades
cognitive psychologists optimistically and abstractly insisted that a useful plan be
complete, efﬁcient and foolproof. The analysts devise puzzles to experimentally identify
and measure the cognitive components of how individuals plan independent of context
and the inﬂuence of motivation and emotions. Imagine a psychological version of the
synoptic rational planning model (Faludi, 1973) applied to a very narrow range of puzzle
solving activity. Analysts study variations in puzzle-solving plans under different
controlled conditions (Morris & Ward, 2005; Ward & Allport, 1997). They focus mainly on
the relationship between cognitive function and behavior analyzing how individuals plan
using search heuristics in problem space (Newell & Simon, 1972), information processing
strategies (Hayes-Roth & Hayes-Roth, 1979), and schemes linking knowledge, evaluation
and action (Miller et al., 1960). Recent research has studied planning in ill-deﬁned domains
paying close attention to the impacts of expertise and prior learning (Ormerod, 2005).
Cognitive planning research provides experimental evidence that the complex urban
planning that professionals study and use may rely upon underlying cognitive planning
behavior only dimly understood.
Instead of studying puzzle-solving problems, other cognitive analysts study the
cognitive steps people take when they make plans for simulated activities (e.g. a shopping
trip to the mall). Studying how people plan errands or other task sequences in simulated
experiments adds insights that the strategic puzzle-solvers miss. The simulation analysts
record participant commentary and behavior, documenting how subjects use emotional
and historical aspects of their own experience to compare, evaluate and select route
choices. For instance, Burgess et al. (2005) use experimental errand plan behavior to
challenge puzzle-based plan-making emphasizing relevance rather than precision. For
instance, the errand analysts criticize puzzle testers for focusing on how well people can
‘look ahead’ and follow a series of puzzle-solving steps using mental representations or
images. The errand analysts insist that people do not plan narrowly in their everyday
lives. People compose simulated plans that include ‘stored preferences’ that they bring to
their planning, preferences based on prior learning and feelings.
Research on the psychology of cognition uncovers planning at the very core of human
judgment (Morris & Ward 2005; Schwarz, 2000). The puzzle analysts cast cognitive plan
making as a strategic activity testing for correspondence between cognitive behavior
models and performance. The simulation analysts conceive cognitive plans as more
complex interactions of foresight and reﬂective adjustment that include emotional
responses and communication. But these research analysts retain the conventional bias
that subordinates the emotional to the rational, even as recognition of emotional
Emotions and Planning 369
Social Psychologists and Counterfactuals
Social psychologists study the relationships between individual planning activity, feelings
and social context. Many of these analysts conduct experiments that test for different kinds
of emotional impact on cognitive judgments formed in response to social outcomes.
Instead of abstracting cognition from emotion, they study their interaction (Forgas &
Smith, 2003). This section brieﬂy describes some of the research ﬁndings by those social
psychologists studying how people create ‘counterfactuals’ to make sense of uncertain
events from the past or and the future.
Social psychologists study how we routinely describe the past in ways that do not ﬁt the
facts, but run counter to the facts. The social psychologists study why and how people
create accounts about prior events that describe for themselves and others how different
consequences might have ensued under different conditions: “If I had arrived earlier to
the meeting I would have received a copy of the agenda”. “If the gun had not been loaded
I would not have accidentally shot my neighbor”. Social psychologists want to understand
the cognitive functions such counterfactuals play and the emotional dimensions that
stimulate and accompany such thinking. They are especially interested in the
psychological beneﬁts this activity offers people making and interpreting judgments
about prior decisions that produced troubling consequences in relations with others
(Roese & Olson, 1995).
People also use counterfactuals to imagine a future that contrasts with current factual
conditions. When we form a plan we use counterfactuals to conceive alternative activities
that will help us reach the anticipated goal” “What would my future hold if I changed my
current eating habits or attachment to public transportation?” Turning a desire and belief
into an intended goal we conceive a counterfactual plan for accomplishing the goal. The
plan will probably be both incomplete and adaptive, but still closely tied to the conditions
shaping current practice. Since human life is complicated no complete plan is possible. We
expect plans to change, and so plans need adapt to the change.
We can use research
ﬁndings on counterfactuals to understand the psychological aspects of how people make
plans for the future (Boninger et al., 1994).
We can construct a plan using counterfactuals that include only modest changes to
current conditions. The plan does not require that we build an entire alternate world, but
only a few changes as sequential conditionals guiding choices along the pathway to
the goal. The spare decision tree illustrates the formal choice points along a series of
sequential options that, once taken, lead down distinct pathways that differ from the
heading set by current trends. Relying on a comprehensive formal tree that outlines all the
possible future choices is a distraction at this point. People use plans to organize their
The counterfactual conditionals may work backwards from the goal or forward from
current practice. We do not use the counterfactuals to select an option to help guide our
choice of option. Counterfactuals help us conceive options as part of a plan. The act of
conception uses counterfactual conditions to connect current practice and future goal with
an action plan that turns desire into intention. The counterfactual narrates, models, maps,
calculates or simulates a plausible future that enables us to act on our desire.
Social psychologists use the concept of counterfactuals to account for narrative
rationales we offer ourselves when reﬂecting on how past actions might be reconsidered.
We do it after the fact and so our thinking is counter factual. Counterfactuals rely upon our
linguistic use of conditionals (if, then) in a subjunctive mood (would that it could be so).
We learn to ponder the legacy of human choices and actions as we reconsider how events
370 C. Hoch
might have turned out differently. Social psychologists do not emphasize the logical and
factual reconstruction of past circumstances surrounding the choices made or actions
taken. They are not historians or forensic investigators. Rather, they study the functional
and emotional impacts that counterfactuals play in shaping the psychological meaning of
Most social psychologists use experimental analysis to test hypotheses about different
dimensions of the complex way we reconsider what might happen. The attention to
analytic slivers tends to overlook the more encompassing ways that we create stories and
arguments, but still provides useful insights for understanding how people make and
respond to plans. There follows a brief description of some ﬁndings about psychological
features of human judgment that shape how we plan.
When planners craft advice they selectively direct attention using emotional cues. Social
psychologists conduct research on how these sorts of cues frame and focus judgments.
(1) Subject over Predicate. Respondents prefer the subject to the referent when asked to
rank the relative merits of competing goods. Analysts tested choices between two equal
goods changing only the order. For instance, in the case of two equally good colleges they
compared the pairing ‘Harvard versus Stanford’ against ‘Stanford versus Harvard’ in
different test trials. They found that respondents select the ﬁrst mentioned subject over the
second mentioned referent in each case (Houston & Fazio, 1989). This implies that people
possess a psychological bias about the order of choice. If we ask people to choose between
Plan A and Plan B, all other things equal, they will tend to prefer Plan A based on the
psychological response for the subject over the predicate.
(2) Better versus Worse. People offer different responses to the same options depending
on how we frame its description (Shaﬁr, 1993). If we say an option is better than a
competing alternative people will tend to agree more than if we say the same alternative is
worse than the same option. So starting out showing our audience how planning options
will improve Main Street plays to this approval bias more favorably than beginning with a
description of the problems along Main Street and then describing improvements.
(3) Great Contrast versus Slight Contrast. How we select and compare alternatives can
have psychological effects. Increasing the contrast between options tends to increase the
psychological acceptability of the choice above and beyond the inherit merits of the
alternatives (McMullen, 1997). For instance, if we frame the choice of energy generation
options between Nuclear and Solar power we are likely to obtain more acceptance for
the Solar option than if we offered the option between Nuclear and Coal. If we offer an
alternative choice that differs greatly the respondents will select differently than if we offer
an alternative choice that differs only modestly. We offer a density option that contrasts the
choice of town homes against the high rise in Manhattan. Then we compare the same town
home choice against a planned unit development that includes a mix of single-family
dwellings and apartment buildings. These examples, and many others not included
(Forgas & Smith, 2003), illustrate how experimental analysts select aspects of a more
encompassing judgment arguing that psychological dimensions do shape planning
judgments. The underlying analytic framework for most of this research still separates
cognition into discreet functions tied to different kinds of planning behaviors. Even after
reading a brief litany of these ﬁndings the practical minded planner will ﬁnd the results
intriguing and even familiar yet difﬁcult to assimilate to practice. How do we attend to
Emotions and Planning 371
these psychological dimensions without sacriﬁcing the contextual complexity and
relevance of practical planning judgment?
Studying Thought and Feeling Together
The study will argue that we leave aside the methodological separation between cognitive
objectivity and emotional sensitivity (recognizing the methodological value of the
separation for select experimental analysis) and consider both as important resources for
human intelligence and judgment. However, combining objectivity and sensitivity proves
difﬁcult because most of us inherit the belief that makes their separation appear normal.
The case will be made for such a merger by ﬁrst arguing, with the help of
neurophysiologist Antonio Damiso (2003), that evidence of brain development and use
supports a functional integration of emotion and thought. Second, the ideas of
philosopher Martha Nussbaum are used to show how we might recognize the intelligence
of emotions as we make and evaluate plans. Damasio helps us understand the inescapable
features of emotions on the landscape of human judgment. Useful human judgment
combines logic and feeling. Nussbaum shows how the careful discernment of feeling can
improve the quality of the judgments we make and actions we take. Emotions provide a
source of intelligent judgment about complex choices.
The Hierarchy of Emotions and Judgment: Damasio
Psychologists and social psychologists studying cognition and emotions do not always
agree about the relevant range of human emotions. The following eight appear most
common: anger, sadness, joy, fear, shame, pride, disgust and guilt (Izard, 1991). Antonio
Damasio offers a richer palette of emotional distinctions distinguishing primary (anger,
fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and disgust) and social (sympathy, embarrassment,
shame, guilt, pride, jealousy, envy, gratitude, admiration, indignation and contempt)
emotions (Damasio, 2003, p. 44). Damasio interprets emotional function within an
evolutionary outlook, assessing the functional merits of each emotion in relation to its
adaptive contribution. This outlook does not mean that emotions always prove useful for
individuals, but that the study of human behavior will prove more valid and insightful if
the emotions are considered as a resource for adaptive learning rather than an impediment
to clear thinking and good judgment. For instance, research has uncovered the
evolutionary value of emotions like disgust, a response that triggers avoidance of toxic
foods or fear that inspires ﬂight from predators. Fridja labels these emotions ‘relevance
detectors’ (1986). Emotions inform intelligent adaptive responses to an uncertain
Damasio (2003) describes emotions using the terminology of human anatomy and brain
physiology, but from the point of view of practical judgment. He adopts a functional
orientation that treats emotions as chemical and neural responses to environmental
stimuli that organisms use to activate a state of adaptive behavior. The automatic
behavioral responses to danger (e.g. fear), praise (e.g. happiness), loss (e.g. sadness), pain
(e.g. anger) and other emotions represents an evolutionary accomplishment of adaptive
survival. These emotional responses help organisms respond effectively to a changing
environment. Because we possess considerably more brain power, humans can form
sensory maps of the changes that occur in the body, the emotional experiences we call
feelings. In addition, humans can even anticipate and evoke these feelings without
external stimulus accounting for feelings of desire and anxiety generated by memories or
fantasies (p. 51).
372 C. Hoch
Damasio emphasizes that feelings inhere within a bodily state of response. Feelings
occur not only as automatic responses, but as responses linked with the form of mental
states associated with consciousness, feelings provide resources for cognitive reﬂection
and assessment. In addition, feelings direct our attention to the salience of the objects we
encounter within any speciﬁc situation that allows time for reﬂective assessment. Feelings
do not operate like a hydraulic system, but more like ﬁnely tuned sensors that interact
tacitly and subtly to variations in the ﬂow of diverse stimuli (p. 177). Damasio argues that
the evolutionary architecture of the brain has a hierarchical structure with emotional
development preceding and framing the development of feelings.
This conception breaks
down the functional segregation of cognition and emotion used by most cognitive and
social psychologists and insists that we frame our study of human judgment in ways that
Martha Nussbaum: Emotions, Evaluation and Judgment
Nussbaum would agree with Damasio, but focuses less on the physiology of emotion and
more on the relationship between emotions and moral judgments. She argues that we
should think about the emotions that accompany an activity like plan making as both
cognitive and evaluative. Emotions mark the salience of the objects we conceive. More
speciﬁcally, emotions such as grief, fear, love, joy, hope, anger, gratitude, hatred, envy,
jealousy, pity and guilt modulate the signiﬁcance and meaning of our judgment about
someone or something. I grieve the loss of my mother, not all mothers. I am angry with
your critical remark, not criticism. The local resident stares indifferently at the land-use
plan and then recoils in anger when viewing the condominium development plan
proposed for a nearby parcel. Nussbaum’s conception contrasts with the common view
that emotions occur outside thought, pushing rather than pulling us toward a judgment.
The hydraulic conception removes intentionality from emotion hoping to avoid
distortions that may accompany animistic conceptions of action. For Nussbaum emotion
has less to do with detachment than selection: combining the proper feeling and thoughts
for the occasion or situation at hand. Our emotions accompany and inform the judgments
we make about the objects we desire and the actions we take to obtain them.
Nussbaum offers four important insights about the emotional quality of the kinds of
judgments we make when planning.
(1) Emotions do not push, but pull us. They direct our attention to objects. Our fears, hopes
and anger focus on someone or something. The kind of object we conceive in turn shapes
the kind of emotion. As a child we fear the onset of the storm. As the storm crashes down
upon us we wail and weep as we imagine a lightening strike taking our life. In time we
learn to feel less fear as we acquire new knowledge about storms, informing us about the
improbability of such a strike. As we acquire this knowledge we may need courage at ﬁrst
to act upon our new understanding. Reducing the emotional attachment of fear and
storms may require some practice to replace fear with other feelings such as indifference
or wonder. When people learn about a new redevelopment plan that introduces a change
they may react with fear about the uncertain consequences this change may produce. But
if they learn how the relevant beneﬁts outweigh the costs the feelings change from fretful
resistance to hopeful optimism. The work by Peter Marris (1996) among planning scholars
elaborates how this works using insights from psychoanalytic and phenomenological
Humans enjoy the additional ability to evoke such emotional responses within our own
imaginations. We re-enact the earlier emotional response to an object. I feel fear recalling
Emotions and Planning 373
the memory of the storm. The emotions not only fuel memory, but also direct and shape
the attention we give to the content. However, these counterfactual accounts include more
than the slivers of cognitive psychological function studied so closely by social
psychologists—they include the quality of emotional responses that people rely upon to
evaluate beliefs. John Forester (1999) uses Nussbaum to show how the conduct of plan
deliberation can be improved in challenging emotional disputes as participants learn to
recognize their emotional commitments as a source of mutual insight.
(2) Emotions engage us intentionally. They draw us into an interpretation of the object that
shapes our response internally and expressively. The range of emotional responses to the
same object can vary with this emotional response. I am fearful of the power of the storm,
but hopeful that it will provide needed water in a time of drought. So emotions include
cognitive features that give meaning to our experience and actions.
Damasio offers a more clinical explanation of such object-stimulated response. The
begins with an appraisal-evaluation phase, starting with the detection of an
emotionally competent stimulus ... The radical excision of the appraisal phase
should obscure rather than illuminate the real value of emotions: their largely
intelligent connection between the emotionally competent stimulus and the set
of reactions that can alter our body function and our thinking so profoundly.
(Damasio, 2003, pp. 53– 54)
Damasio’s more technical language emphasizes the adaptive value of emotions that shape
human perception and judgment. Our emotional responses lead, rather than follow,
cognitive reﬂection and inquiry. Instead of casting emotion as an impediment to thought,
this view recognizes emotions as an inescapable accompaniment to human thought. We
can and do learn to use emotional responses to improve or to undermine the quality and
effectiveness of cognitive judgments and other actions.
(3) The emotions shape how we think about the world. If I believe the storm reﬂects God’s
wrath in the face of my recent behavior then I may feel a mixture of guilt and fear with the
onset of the storm. Our beliefs can shift with a change in emotion. As I experience the joys
of secular living I lose my sense of guilt and fear of a wrathful God. My feelings of fearful
attachment diminish, replaced by feelings of conﬁdence tied to people and customs. I can
also learn new beliefs that change the meaning of my commitments. Replacing belief in
God with beliefs about the hydrological cycles on earth may displace feelings of guilt and
fear with feelings of wonder and even joy at the power and beauty of the storm. No matter
if I change my belief or feeling, their joint effect on intentions and judgment changes my
relationship with the world. When people sincerely adopt a plan, they use it to provide an
emotional as well as cognitive framework for assessing progress, effort or accomplish-
ment. Many kinds of feeling may accompany the making, carrying out and
accomplishment of a plan; differences that shape the relevance and success of the plan.
People may understand the cognitive value of a plan, but if they do not feel a sense of
ownership or possession that fuels their intention to follow the plan, then the plan does
not work. For instance, work by Leonie Sandercock (2002, 2004) makes the case for a more
robust planning enterprise as she includes stories of the dispossessed to evoke a
compassion that is strong enough to challenge conventional attachments to planning
(4) The intentional beliefs that inform emotions ﬁnd value in objects. Whether or not we feel
anything depends on the importance of the object for us. The value refers to speciﬁc
prospects for what Nussbaum calls ‘ﬂourishing’. Emotions represent crucial aspects for
374 C. Hoch
our own cognitive and moral development. The value of the object may also be related to
the needs of others through compassion and empathy. It is recognized that what makes it
possible to feel free will also offer the same value for others who are similarly disposed,
but not as well provisioned. Emotional intensity varies with the comprehension and
clarity of belief and its effects on ourselves or for others for whom similar effects are
similar to our own. When we make a comprehensive plan we not only include all the
important logical parts of the community, but also attend to the feelings and beliefs
different people hold about those parts and their combination. Citizen participation is
conducted not only to ensure fairness of representation, but also to solicit knowledge
about the meaning of the plan among a diverse assortment of people offering a diverse
range of responses (Churchill, 2003).
Damasio and Nussbaum teach us that the plans we make will not prove attractive or
useful to individuals without offering both emotional and cognitive meaning. If we
believe their arguments, then we need to develop planning analysis that pays more
attention to both aspects of planning judgment. But how would this work?
Planning Research and Emotions
Case study planning research can include narratives about planning issues and activities
that describe the emotions and feelings of individuals and groups of individuals (Baum,
1983, 1997; Forester, 1999; Marris, 1996; Throgmorton, 1996). Narrative accounts do more
than report the emotions and feelings of individuals involved in the action; they anticipate
and evoke an emotional response from the readers (Cole, 1990). The reader not only learns
about the outrage of a protagonist planner in the face of a betrayal, but feels something as
well, indifference perhaps, but more likely suspicion, empathy or even some mixture.
These case accounts avoid the analytic separation of rational and emotional dimensions of
judgment, describing their integration in the context of practical judgments.
In my own work, I studied planners in the United States, conducting interviews and
observing them in meetings, offering testimony, conversing with colleagues, advising
clients, conducting site visits, interpreting regulations and more. In studying what they
said and did, actions and emotions were recorded in detailed narrative reports. The two
cases that follow draw from these original reports. The narratives use Damasio and
Nussbaum’s ideas to illustrate how emotions shape the judgments planners make as they
compose and offer advice (the method is described in Hoch, 1994).
The Site Visit: Implementing the Zoning Code
Michael De Soto is head of the community development department of an aging inner
suburb of a US Midwest metropolis. He takes pride in his professional role, and is well-
dressed among a blue-collar staff less artfully adorned. Michael visited Adriana
Hernandez who claimed her neighbor’s new fence violates the local land use code. As we
traveled to the site Michael told me about some local history. For years Adriana had
tended a large garden on the lot next to her single family home before the current owner
constructed a duplex. Adriana resents the loss of the garden and the increased density,
even though the construction met the R-2 zoning requirements. Adriana has ﬁled many
complaints with municipal agencies about the new duplex residents and the landlord.
Most notable was her success using municipal code enforcement to force her neighbor to
remove a fence that encroached on her property line by just one inch. This did little to
inspire good will. The landlord has just completed installing a new fence and Adriana
called Michael out to conduct an inspection, hoping to force removal once again. Michael
Emotions and Planning 375
speculates that the intensity of the antagonism may be complicated by the fact that the
Hernandez’s are the only Mexicans in a white ethnic neighborhood. Adriana’s resentment
may ﬂow not only from her selﬁsh disappointment but a sense of injustice.
Adriana mutters a gruff greeting standing stiff and awkward, guarding the threshold to
her house sandwiched between half open screen door and front door. Michael responds in
Spanish, the stiffness ﬂees, she smiles and both doors open wide. She tells the story of the
ﬁrst fence and then sheepishly admits that she knows the new fence meets the code. She
checked herself. It seems she wants Michael to advise her on the location of a new back
gate she hopes to construct. As we follow her out back Michael looks at me whimsically
wincing acknowledgement at her cleverness. It takes only a few moments to take the
measurements and satisfy her worry. Gracias all round.
As we turn to leave, Michael spies an elderly man repairing automobiles in his garage.
Their eyes meet and the man motions us to approach. “I saw you at the meeting last
night,” he says. Michael responds with an afﬁrmative nod. “You do community
development, right?” Michael responds, “Yes”. Pointing to the jumble of cars in his garage
the elderly repair man raises his voice to make a point, “I have owned my home here for
more than 30 years and repairing cars here since 1961, it’s a grandfathered use!” Michael,
responding softly, agrees.
Reassured the elderly man paused and then voicing indignation reported, “I tried to
speak last night, but the mayor cut me off. He would not listen to me. I think you City
employees do a good job, but not the mayor. I voted for him, but not any more. He doesn’t
even live in town. He lives in Rich Town.” As he spoke, the man stepped forward
aggressively and then rocked backward like a boxer. Michael obliged stepping back and
forth offering sympathy in sync. A litany of complaints followed starting with
neighborhood matters and then escalating to more global municipal issues. “They were
gonna ﬁx the street lights here and the City Council removed them from the list of eligible
projects. Then they took the money and used it for street improvements in the Jungle (a
racist euphemism for a dense residential subdivision in the municipality inhabited mainly
by Mexicans)!” Michael abruptly stopped his rhythmic rocking and the elderly man
stumbled to a halt. The bond of sympathy had snapped. Both knew it. Michael offered an
account of the redistribution describing the efﬁciency and justice of the Council decision.
The elderly man stood rooted, inert, hands to his side indifferent to every word Michael
spoke. Clipped goodbyes and we left.
Michael makes moral judgments that include attention to his own feelings and the
feelings of others. The unexceptional routine planning activity included a range of feeling.
He shows empathy for Adriana’s exaggerated encroachment claims speaking Spanish as
he listens to her concerns. She responds generously to this little ethnic gift and drops the
persona of aggrieved neighbor, taking the opportunity to seek practical advice on location
of a backyard gate. Michael extends a sympathetic ear to the complaints of the elderly
neighbor and then deﬂects the unexpected racial remarks using an impartial persona to
accompany his policy story about redistributive justice. The psychological and cognitive
aspects of judgment blend together.
The Prison Plan: Recommending a Facility Location
Valerie makes plans for state prisons. She works for a national consultant that provides
prison planning expertise. Prison planning and construction was a booming industry in
the United States at the time I conducted this interview. Valerie describes her work for a
national consultant. Her ﬁrm contracts with state prison boards studying the suitability of
376 C. Hoch
eligible counties for new prison development and recommending sites at the conclusion of
the study. Valerie, barely out of her twenties, has angular cheekbones and porcelain skin,
blue eyes and long thick eyebrows emphasizing thick bangs. Other than a silver barrette
she wears no other jewelry or makeup. She looks like a demure ﬁrst grade teacher, not a
prison planner. She tells me how she plans for prisons:
I’m not sure there is a good way to plan for prisons. The demand for the
employment prisons provide greatly exceeds the supply. So there are lots of
places to choose from and little time to conduct a thorough assessment ... Ido
a lot more than is required. All you need do is visit a handful or prospective
sites, attend a local meeting, take notes and offer priorities. But I spend a lot of
time and effort collecting and assessing the needs and desires of each place.
I am willing to admit that I don’t know things. Most of my colleagues won’t. I
try and learn. I put myself in the place of the local residents and ofﬁcials. I try
and get an accurate sense of their feelings about the prison and its
consequences for them. The prison is full of bad people. Would I want to live
near one? No, I wouldn’t. But there is more to the decision than just that risk.
The prison brings jobs and economic development. You don’t have to identify
your community with the prison.
I point out to residents fearful about the prison that they already turn a blind
eye to undesirable activities, buildings, etc ... in their community. You can
learn to do the same with the prison. But I ask myself, “Could I really not notice
it everyday?” I have a hard time answering yes. I try avoiding this question, but
when someone puts it to me I’m honest. I say no.
At ﬁrst I thought that if I lied to people it wouldn’t make that big a difference.
But I could never bring myself to do it. When I went on my ﬁrst site visit I
traveled with a colleague who lied. He would say whatever he thought the
audience wanted to hear. He said things like “It will not be that bad.” and “The
governor will think you’re an important place. You’ll get political attention.”
He wanted the residents to believe that the prison itself was a good thing.
I believe the people left a lot more afraid than when they ﬁrst came. Many
seemed resigned and defeated. They felt the coming of the prison was
inevitable. They lost the sense that their participation mattered.
At least with honesty residents will trust you and listen to what you say.
Partly they have no other choice but to trust me since I’m their main
opportunity to make their participation count. But they also trust me because I
speak sincerely and honestly. I tell them that what they say matters and then I
make every effort to take what they say into account - use it in setting priorities.
Many of my colleagues leave work whistling, carefree. I carry this stuff home. I
spend 60 hour weeks thinking about the people. What is best for them? Am I
exceeding my authority? Did I leave something important out? Maybe I should
do something more?
I make these huge charts on my walls at home and divide them into parts, one
for each county. Then I paste all the information I’ve collected: demographics,
economic stuff, reports, notes and pictures. I include the fears and hopes of
residents. I read each one and compare the information weighing good and bad
consequences for each county. What people say matters most to me, I think.
I delay making ﬁnal recommendations because I always feel doubts. I’m
never really sure. I get scared that I am recommending a choice that won’t
Emotions and Planning 377
really prove beneﬁcial. Once a ﬁnal choice is made I leave feeling bad that
choices B, C, D, and E didn’t get the prison. Getting to know the places and
people in detail meant that I feel the frustration of not helping the places that
deserve a prison, but didn’t get one.
Valerie does not envisage feelings as the enemy of reﬂection, but as a cognitive and moral
resource that she uses to guide her planning judgments. She not only recognizes the effects
of her own doubts, fears and frustration; but uses empathy and sympathy to both publicly
and professionally assess and communicate the feelings of others. Her plan assessment
scheme combines aspects of multi-attribute analysis informed by an emotional overlay
that draws upon the passionate testimony of residents most likely to endure the
consequences of the plan. The analytic methodologist will ﬁnd it hard to grant validity to
such an eclectic practical synthesis. No analyst can reliably recast Valerie’s judgment; but
such criticism overlooks the critical analyst’s own passion for reliability tests untainted by
emotional attachments. Such tests have value in research settings where the assumptions
do not impose too costly a burden. They may prove too restrictive when making plans for
prisons. Valerie puts her planning judgments to a public test before an audience that
appraises them morally, emotionally and politically. She claims objectivity based less on
detached rational analysis and more on a passionately fair minded empathic judgment.
Both stories tell us about speciﬁc people and events, yet, the practical moral paradoxes
in each case exhibit qualities that people everywhere might recognize. I portrayed both
planners offering good advice; one giving advice attending to the feelings of each person,
the other offering advice using subtle emotional assessment to weigh the cognitive merits
of complex alternatives. The skeptical reader might raise questions about the validity of
my reports or the quality of my characterization, but the episodes provide insight about
how feelings matter in planning judgment. The knowledge we obtain from these accounts
provides evidence against the view that planning and planners should focus mainly on
rational theory, skill and method; or that practical know how, moral character or emotional
maturity bear no intrinsic relation to planning judgment. Reading these episodes draws
attention to the complexity of our everyday action and the important role emotions play
helping us cope with complexity. However, we cannot grasp an emotion like we grasp a
concept. We learn to adjust and modify emotional responses in the context of making
practical judgments about speciﬁc planning issues and proposals. We acquire sensitivity
to emotional effects as we learn to recognize the quality of the emotions and feelings that
inﬂuence practical judgments in a wide variety of speciﬁc contexts and instances.
This type of case study does not provide an effective tool for grasping systematic
relationships between institutional conditions or organizational practices and emotional
responses. However, it need not preclude such inquiry and it may even help analysts
recognize the merits of conducting such research. If we cannot escape emotions as we
make plans, than we need to learn how they shape expectations and judgment in more
valid and useful ways that will improve both planning insight and action.
Conclusion: Beyond Objectivity and Sensitivity
When we make plans we draw upon our own emotional resources, but we also create an
object that we hope will shape the emotional response of others (Bagozzi & Pieters, 1998;
Lerner & Keltner, 2000). We can consider this response instrumentally much as advertisers
and public relations people do. We organize the objects of persuasion in ways that actively
subvert emotional intelligence, manipulating images and text to project beliefs that
will provoke a predictable emotional response.
We do not want to inspire a response,
378 C. Hoch
but compel or trigger one. So we can use our sensitivity to emotional response to organize
planning messages that will elicit the desired response. This strategy represents what
Nussbaum would consider a cynical disregard for the moral quality of social emotions like
compassion and empathy (Manna & Smith, 2004; Menon, 2000; Pullman & Gross, 2004).
However, we may also craft plans to shape the emotional response of relevant
stakeholders by focusing on beliefs that inform different expectations about the future.
Each of us responds to a plan uniquely, but the act of making a plan with others invites
them to make the plan their own by investing it with practical intentions oriented toward
accomplishing different future goals. This is what analyst Lew Hopkins describes as
vision in his analysis of plan making, but it might also include policy, strategy or agenda
(Hopkins, 2000). Hopkins emphasizes the cognitive and logical aspects; but the practical
use of any strategy involves judgments that draw upon emotional dispositions and
feelings (Bailey, 1983; Kahneman & Lovallo, 1993; Schwarz, 2000).
How we do this matters and emotions play an important role. For example, we may
present fearful images of impending disaster that seek to undermine public conﬁdence in
current practices (Markman et al., 1993). The plan presents images and evidence to show
how future consequences will damage property similar to that possessed by the audience.
The evocative portrayal of future effects evokes fear that can motivate people to consider
remedies to avoid these destructive results. But if the images exaggerate the effects beyond
the limits of available cognitive evidence then persuasion becomes manipulation
(McMullen, 1997). If the images are used to channel fear into a desire for a speciﬁc
alternative without allowing for, much less fostering, deliberation about potential options,
then we need to restore the proper balance. Recognizing the proper balance between
cognition and emotion requires reframing our ideas about planning in a way that includes
both logical and emotional aspects in the same account (Nussbaum, 2003). We have
inherited from the social sciences and the design arts conventions that separate the two
aspects as independent. But in the practical art and craft of planning both remain
stubbornly linked as we reﬂect and act.
Analysts who expect planners to offer ‘objective’ results about potential consequences
that evoke neither feeling nor intentions may inspire indifference rather than
understanding. People ignore the analysis because they do not grasp the importance
and relevance of the consequences so portrayed. Later, after the ﬂood has destroyed their
property, the residents complain. “You did not warn us”. Responding defensively the
planners respond, “We gave you the results of the analysis. The risk was clearly
described”. The owners counter, “But the risk for us was not laid out”. The planners insist.
“We invited you to study the data and draw your own conclusions. The risk values in the
data included probability estimates”. The fury of the owners will probably grow in this
ﬁctitious exchange that illustrates how accuracy is less the issue than concern for the
meaning of the information—the combination of emotional attachment and cognitive
assessment that shapes judgments about the risk of speciﬁc consequences (Marris, 1996).
Had the planners directed their attention to the risks and then framed the meaning of
these risks for different stakeholders; the after-the-fact interrogation might focus less on
what was left out (“You planners failed to warn us.”) and more on the ﬁt between planning
objectives and future consequences (“What went wrong with our mitigation efforts?”)
(Kahneman & Lovallo, 1993).
Many professional planners tacitly and cleverly use emotional intelligence to inform
judgments about the application of plans or evaluations about the selection and
representation of information and ideas in making plans. The cases of Valerie and Michael
illustrate this fact. Planning analysts also use emotional intelligence when they author case
Emotions and Planning 379
studies, policy reports, advisory memos, editorials or other persuasive documents. They
write narratives and arguments that employ and describe emotions animating the actions
people take, the territory (physical and institutional) they inhabit, the policies in place (or
not) and ensuing effects (real or imagined) (Forester, 2004; Hoch, 1994; Madelbaum, 2000;
Throgmorton, 2003). However, there are many aspects of the practical art of planning that
we do not understand because analysts have overlooked how emotions and feelings shape
the plans people make individually as urban dwellers or urban planners (LeBaron, 2002).
The planning ﬁeld possesses a bountiful case study literature that tells us much about the
political, social, economic, geographic and historical meaning of planning and plans.
Analysts need to spend more time and effort studying the role emotions play shaping
judgments in each of these aspects of planning.
This article has tapped only a small portion of the vast research literature on the
relationships among emotions, judgment and action. Three planning areas especially
merit the study of emotions: creation, communication and evaluation. How do emotions
shape the imaginative art of plan making? What role do emotions play in shaping the
different aspects of communication used to inform and persuade people about proposed
plans? How do emotions shape the expectations and criteria used to judge the merits of
planning methods, experience and outcomes?
1. Note that the assumptions associated with cognition among social psychologists is less demanding than
among those psychologists studying cognitive psychology of planning.
2. See the work by Pollock (2004) who writes as a heretic among those studying normative decision theory using
models of optimality. Instead of embracing Simon’s (1982) satsiﬁcing strategy, he embraces planning. We
make plans in order to organize how we judge and choose among alternatives as we make decisions.
3. “First came the machinery for producing reactions to an object or event, directed at the object or at the
circumstances—the machinery of emotion. Second came the machinery for producing a brain map and then a
mental image, an idea, for the reactions and for the resulting state of the organism—a machinery of feeling ...
Eventually, in a fruitful combination with past memories, imagination, and reasoning, feelings led to the
emergence of foresight and the possibility of creating novel, non stereotypical responses” (Damasio, 2003,
4. F.G. Bailey (1983) argues that we manage our passions using a ‘colony of selves’, what I refer to as personae.
Michael, in Bailey’s terms shifts from a moral to a civic persona, from an attachment of solidarity to publicity.
5. Plato’s Socrates recognized the threat by the Sophists in similar fashion. The dialectical method was designed
to thwart the sort of direct emotional appeals made by orators indifferent to a truth based in cognitive
judgment. Of course not all sophists were con artists or the sort of dupes that Plato sometimes creates in the
Dialogues. My point is to emphasize that the pursuit of truth emerged in the dialectical exchange as an
antagonism between the inherent distortions that emotions allow and the purity of ideas unencumbered by
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