The Heart and the Mind

In many of the stories I have read, there has been a division between characters who follow their hearts and characters that follow their mind. Emotion. Logic. I find it to be a rather interesting line of thought, a way to look between the two on character development.

I’m curious what everyone thinks when it comes to this. What choices or examples have you all come across that gave a clear distinction between the two and left an impression? This could be in the stories here, in video games, or in stories you’ve read elsewhere.

On my end, when I think of the Heart Vs. Mind, I think of Spock and Kirk. They tend to be a rather clear example of the subject matter when looking at characters who follow logic/feelings. As is Watson and Sherlock, though Watson and Kirk go about their emotions in different ways. Especially when fanfiction comes into the picture, which is…enlightening, I suppose you could say?

Let me know what you all think!


Well, I saw a reference to this in a martial arts movie parody where the sensei tells him that with his head and warm heart his student’s body will be free. It’s the first thing I thought of when reading your question.

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Personally I don’t like emotion vs logic as an opposed pair, because they’re not mutually exclusive. Lacking emotion is an actual medical condition and there are treatments for it. Lacking logic is generally just being either uneducated or unintelligent.

The character examples you’ve shown as “following” their logic rather than emotions are, in fact, both autistic – but since they’re fictional characters meant to portray autism, it’s very exaggeratedly so. Autistic people definitely experience emotions differently from neurotypicals, but that doesn’t make them lack emotions. They also don’t choose to follow logic, but rather, anyone will follow their logical capacity to the best of their ability in the absence of strong emotions. In my case – though certainly not every autistic person’s case – my emotions are actually rather intense when I express them, but require a certain threshold of intensity before I feel they’re worth expressing, or sometimes before I even feel them at all. In some scenarios people will think I’m a very emotional person, in others people will think I’m very stoic. But in no scenario does my logical capacity actually change, though I may have a better or weaker understanding of certain situations given the depth of my knowledge about it.


You make some rather good points and this is something I am aware of as I have autism myself. I find emotions to be difficult to understand, and I tend to not understand them when they are expressed by others unless they are readily obvious – such as a person who is crying is generally upset, but if they are upset out of anger or sorrow isn’t always clean-cut. I don’t readily experience them myself unless they are, like you, rather intense and ready to boil over. Which generally leaves me either in a fit of anger or curled up in a ball reassuring myself that everything’s gonna be okay.

However, for the sake of fiction, emotions are often intensified.

I would agree that Sherlock is autistic, or a sociopath depending on which rendition of Sherlock we take into consideration, I would say Spock isn’t when one takes into consideration that he is half-Vulcan. Off the lore overall, Vulcans are a species that favors logic over emotion due to how, when emotional, they have a hard time controlling themselves to the point of being violent. From that universe’s standpoint, he wouldn’t really be classified as ‘autistic’ because of the difference in how a Vulcan works compared to a human (a species that is considerably more emotional than Vulcans overall). Honestly, I find Vulcans to be a rather interesting species and one I can relate to, to a degree. On another note, Spock and Kirk were made very deliberately so that their strengths play off each other’s weaknesses, which would lead to interesting character interactions between the two.

While I find the entire ‘emotion vs logic’ to be confusing, it is an interesting thing to take into consideration from a narrative standpoint. I think the point I was wanting to express can be taken from an example my therapist had offered me once:

You’re walking by a man drowning in a river. It’s dark enough out that you can see him, but you can’t see what’s in the water. You’re not a good swimmer. Do you jump in to try and save him or let him drown?

This puts the ‘heart vs mind’ into play rather drastically.

Someone in a story that is emotionally driven will likely jump into the river at the risk of their own death while someone who is more logically driven is less likely to jump in knowing there will be two dead bodies instead of one at the end.

The person who is logically inclined might be torn apart by not trying to save the person who is drowning, but, from their own point-of-view, it is the best decision. They might instead try to get someone else to help, or call for help if it’s possible.

It’s these moments when the character comes to a difficult choice to follow their heart (what they feel is the right thing to do) or their mind (what is the best thing to do in that situation regardless of what you feel). As another example, someone I knew made a choice to buy a home ‘from their heart’ despite not being finically ready for that, as they said it felt like it was the right thing to do for them at that moment. Several years later, they’re still in that house and doing good despite the challenges they were faced with. I’m not sure if it was luck or not, but I find that to be interesting and gives me hope that things will go well for me and those I care about when we’re in hard situtions.

Well, this definitely seems like a false dichotomy to me. There are emotions that would tell you not to go try to save the person, such as fear. Calling for help is certainly a logical choice, but you also wouldn’t bother if you’re completely apathetic. It’s also entirely possible you just don’t like this person. In that case, not saving them would be the emotional response, and saving them to avoid suspicion might be a logical choice.


A completely apathetic person could save the person for purely selfish reasons as well, I’d reckon.

I do like how you point out saving a person you don’t like to avoid suspicion, which makes me think the person doing the saving had a hand in the situation overall – such as they pushed the person in the river and someone else was coming up on the scene, so they saved the person to get out of trouble or make it look like an accident.

Like a “we were fighting and I didn’t realize how hard I hit him” kind of thing.

This could be applied to a lot of different scenarios. Kidnapping. Getting lost in the forest. A zombie apocalypse with limited resources. Overall, the ‘emotion vs logic’ setup is an exercise in thought that comes down to why someone chooses to do something.

While the entire concept of ‘Mind Vs Heart’ seems to be complete opposites, or have little to do with one another, they are connected by human experience. The reason a person does what they do has so many factors involved, some of it biological and some of it nurture and life experiences. It also dives into how a person thinks, as well. Some people are good with people, some aren’t. Some are good with machines and can be equated to a walking calculator (I’ve several of these in my family while I’m numerically challenged), and others are very expressive people who aren’t shy about expressing their emotions and their feelings.

It’s all very interesting, from my end of things. I tend to think a great deal into the whys when it comes to characters, especially when it comes to the emotional sides of things. That’s just how I am, and I tend to muse over certain topics and ideas for a long time while I work them out.

On another note, perhaps if the ‘Emotion Vs Logic’ isn’t an opposed pair could be an interesting setup. That way someone could see if a character was more emotionally driven over logically driven without having a bar where they’re competing for space.

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I think the popular Myers-Briggs personality test contributes to the idea that the head and the heart are opposite qualities, by dividing everyone into “thinkers” and “feelers.” (This is something I’ve had a lot of occasion to talk about, since hardly anyone is familiar with the “X” value in Myers-Briggs, which represents a fifty-fifty split between two opposed values, so pretty much any time I have occasion to identify myself as an INXJ, I have to explain what exactly that means.) “Thinker” and “Feeler” in the MBTI are basically a shorthand for two predominant decision-making styles, one based as much as possible in objectivity and the other rooted in personal values.

In my personal experience, existing at the midpoint of a continuum offers a clarity of perspective that’s almost impossible from the fringes, and here’s where I’m going with this: the head and the heart are seen as opposites not because they are in any absolute sense, but because a lot of people want them to be. I’ve found that the more a person favors one or the other decision-making style, the more they actively disdain the other, rather than recognizing it as a valid and sometimes necessary approach. Strong Feelers really do see Thinkers as soulless robots, and strong Thinkers really do see Feelers as sentimental idiots, and very often they really don’t want to be told otherwise, as to do so means calling into question the absolute validity of their own way of seeing the world. Meanwhile, I very consciously treat my head and heart as complementary faculties, either of which I can’t imagine willingly doing without.

If I had to simulate this in numerical terms, I think I actually would treat it as a single value set along a continuum. I’m not sure what I would call it - “Thinker/Feeler” works for me, but I wouldn’t count on most other people to automatically interpret those words the way I do. Maybe “Objectivity/Subjectivity”? Perhaps “Reason/Value.” Anyway, unlike the diminishing returns model where the farther you get from the midpoint of the continuum, the slower the rate of change, I would do the reverse: if you’re in the middle, the effect of any particular action is minimal, but the further you go toward one end or the other, the easier it is to keep going the same way.


Been there, done that: not so interesting.
I prefer “Am I doing the right thing?” when it comes to developement and conflict.
Sidenote: an conflict within the character works only when there is direct interaction with an other character

As far as the MBTI, I’m an INTJ. When we go to the Enneagram, I’m a 5.

Not entirely sure how well these tests mesh together, but I’ve taken both tests more times than I care to admit over the course of many years. The “Thinker” Vs “Feeler” aspect of the test confused me, back in my teenage years. Confused me in the same way as being told to “visualize” something in my mind in art and me thinking it was metaphorical when it was meant, more or less, in a literal sense considering people can visualize something in their mind.

This is what I was thinking when I was talking about how one’s experiences, piled on top of how we were raised, have an impact on how we make our decisions in life. A lot of how we view the world around us begins with our family and the beliefs (or lack thereof) we’re raised with. The way we see the world will shift when new experiences come into the picture, which encourages the way we view the world or bring our current way of life to question (this is impacted by life experiences, friends, and teachers as well as extended family).

Conflict can happen between interactions with another character, but that isn’t the only way. It can also come from outside sources, such as a natural disaster or the environment the character is in. And it doesn’t have to be direct conflict for it to work – the most obvious example would be tensions between two groups of characters the main character isn’t part of that overlaps on the main character.

For example, the main character lives in a territory where two gangs are at each other’s throats. The main character doesn’t interact with either side, goes about their lives as best as they can, and does their best to stay away from areas with high crime rates. They aren’t having any direct interaction with people from either gang, but they’re still caught in the conflict that comes from the gangs’ fight.

The ‘conflict’ that arises here is a conflict in the sense that there is a stake involved – the main character has to be wary about what’s happening in fear they could cross paths with either gang or get caught in the crossfire in a fight between them. The conflict is fear, which could, in turn, shift to sleepless nights, which would then impact work and/or school, which would, in turn, create more issues the main character has to deal with on top of it all (such as failing a class or getting fired from work).

That, in and of itself, is interesting.

Creating the characters populating a story is something I enjoy. I get to dive into their lives, the events that occurred that shape them into the people they are as I write them. This includes the way they think as the things they went through would impact the way they view the world around them and the people they interact with overall.

It is also important to make sure the choices we make as we create our stories are the right stories, that I agree with wholeheartedly. Getting the concept down, how the plot unfolds, what the conflict and stakes are, are vital to the story overall. Story construction isn’t easy, by any means.

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In my view, there is no real tension between emotion and logic. Emotion (or instinct, or maybe even some parts of programming if it was possible to make a sapient robot) is what provides goals. Logic is the means by which reasoning creatures decide how best to pursue those goals.

Any apparent conflict between the two comes from the fact that different emotions can direct people in mutually exclusive directions. When emotion seems to clash with logic, it is really one emotion clashing with a stream of logic directed by another emotion running counter to the first. Or in the case of two people, it’s also possible that one doesn’t fully understand the logic of the other (like Watson sometimes objecting to the things Holmes does because Holmes hasn’t yet explained why he is doing them), but that’s less logic vs. emotion and more logic vs. incomplete comprehension.

Also, I’d disagree that Sherlock Holmes is autistic. Some adaptations of his character may tend in that direction, but the original was actually a very empathetic person who communicated well with others, even if he was not always as up-front about how he felt as he could have been.


This isn’t incompatible with autism, though. Some autistic people are hyper-empaths.


Supermassive Games does this literally. All of their games in the Dark Pictures Anthology separate choices by heart and mind.

For me, the scene which leave a deep impression in my soul is the alleged " love relationship " between John Connor and his cyborg protector Cameron Philips in the TV series Terminator : Sarah Connor Chronicles . Cameron is a Terminator machine-infiltrator who was given the program code of a female human’s personality in an artificial female body , her initial task was to infiltrate the future human resistance camp and kill John Connor but was captured and reprogram as a protector, Cameron was sent back to present day to protect the teenage version of John, in order to do that, Cameron had become teenage John’s best friend in high school before revealing her cyborg identify. John had secretly develop a love feeling for her and was in a dilemma regarding his feeling after knowing “her” is a cyborg.

In season 2: episode one, Cameron had involved in an explosion that render part of her programming memory malfunction , thus revert back to her terminator mode and proceed in a chase to terminate John. Cameron was later captured and was in danger of being removed her memory chip for destroy purpose, in her desperate moment Cameron plead John for forgiveness and said " I love you! I love you, please. I love you, John, and you love me." John was hesitated in trying to decide whether to trust Cameron or not, logically John knew machine could not possibly "love’ him and it was an attempt to trick him into releasing her, but in his heart he also wants her love to be true .

So in the end John did remove Cameron’s chip from her head but he then proceed in trying to clean up the dust and fix the chip during the journey of carrying her “body” to be destroy in a junkyard.

Just before John’s mother and uncle were trying to set both Cameron’s chip and body on fire. John turns the tables on the adults, putting the chip back into Cameron’s head and handing her a gun to see if she really is back to her old self. This was an attempt on John’s part to trust his heart rather than his mind because he was putting his life on the wire to test the “love” of a cyborg.

Another interesting part of the story is, Cameron manage to learn the full meaning of "human love " via downloaded definition and meaning where she will try to exercise this on her own. Which mean Cameron follows the “love” in her mind/head but do her have a “heart” to feel it?
While John had set his heart of “loving” and trusting a cyborg but had always battling the logic of it in her mind/head.

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Even so, the way Holmes acts is not really reminiscent of a hyper-empathic autistic person. Just as much as it is more common for autistic people to be portrayed as having a harder time relating to others, it doesn’t really make sense to say that he must be autistic no matter which way the evidence falls because there is a variant of the condition that might allow for some of his behaviour.

My point was that Holmes, despite no doubt being a bit eccentric, was not really written so as to suggest that he was drastically mentally unusual for an adult man during his period of history. Apart from being a genius at detective work, of course, but that’s not a symptom of autism either.

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I agree with the commenters who said this is a muddy situation – not only because emotions could point in multiple directions (fear/self-preservation as well as empathy) but also because reason could point you in different directions.

Reason applied to ethics doesn’t necessarily mean consequentialism (i.e. the rightness of actions is determined by their likely consequences, which are worse in the probably-two-dead scenario than the definitely-one-dead scenario). Other attempts to apply logic to ethics have ended up with systems of categorical imperatives; a logical character who has reasoned that she has a categorical obligation to try to save others’ lives might try it despite massive risk to herself. Ethical reasoning can lead people to do some pretty dramatic, counter-emotional things.

If I saw a game with a heart-mind opposed pair, I’d run with it. Stats are always simplifications, and opposed stats even more so; I suspend disbelief for purposes of enjoying a game, and it could be fun to play to a brainy/emotion-driven stereotype. But I’d probably be annoyed if the game then tried to force me to do what it thought was “logical,” rather than recognizing that there are generally both logical and emotion-driven reasons that could be offered for most responses to a given situation.


What would be good, but possibly not applicable in every scenario, is two (or more) options that are exactly the same action but for different reasons. I see this a fair bit in existing CS games, though not as often as I think they’re warranted.