“Why People are so Damn Irrational”

One of those little tidbits that you learn about people is that they are irrational. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

You may be wondering…  why is this the case?

Biology and paleontology tell us

that our DNA is the sum total of innumerable years of evolution.

The first few animals that came about had very primitive brains that told them: “avoid pain, seek pleasure”.

Fast forward a hundred million years more. Animals capable of processing emotions emerged.

Go to present day and the only animal with something even more sophisticated is human beings.

Humans have the ability to process logic and plan ahead. The problem is that the ability to process logic is very limited.

Why? Because all the “old hardware” is underneath the logic part of the brain.

What ends up happening is that you do something on impulse, then you “rationalize it”(read: make up an excuse)  afterwards.

Sure you have willpower. But it is finite. You can only resist your natural urges (hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.) for so long.

Why do you eat that slice of chocolate cake? It was probably the “old part of your brain” that is constantly telling you: “seek pleasure, avoid pain”.

It’d probably be best to avoid buying junk food and go grocery shopping after eating a meal. You know, plan ahead!

Why didn’t you exercise today? You know that you’ll get a release of endorphins after exercising and you feel better. You know that exercise will stave off heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States.

But you sat on the couch, it was really cozy, and you didn’t feel like getting up again.

Or was it because “you were busy”? Even if your schedule was full, you can just get up 45 minutes earlier and go outside and exercise for half an hour.

Be aware that you have limits based solely on how nature put your body together. So you need to make a concerted (planned out) effort to do something long term.

Let’s delve into the psychology bit now…

Psychology is the study of human behavior.

It tells us that our brain is equipped to handle surviving in the wilderness. It is not equipped to constantly process logic. It’s not even equipped to process “reality”!!! Your brain is there in order for you to survive. The psychological traps that your brain can fall into prove it!

Let’s take the fact that you are more likely to survive in a group. It doesn’t matter if the group is self destructive and illogical.

If your instinctual and emotional needs are met, and there are no outside influences, you stay in the group.

This is why cults and ideologies exist!

Look to any suicide cult, the “Charles Manson Family”. Or any really cooky religion out there (I’m looking at you scientology!).

Look at psychology experiments such as the Milligram experiment or the Stanford Prison Experiment.

These are just a few traps that your brain can fall into! Your brain can betray you if you are not vigilant!

Conclusion

People are irrational. Full stop. Even you and I.

If you don’t believe me, take it from experts in the fields. From persuasion experts such as Dale Carnegie, Robert Cialdini, and Scott Adams.

Or from time tested psychological experiments such as the Milgram Experiment and Stanford Prison Experiment.

There’s no way around it but to plan ahead in order to avoid your human failings and temptations.

Sources:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129027124 (An article giving an overview of the human brain)

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/survival/wilderness/wired-for-survival1.htm (inate human instincts)
http://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/15/style/the-psychology-of-the-cult-experience.html (decades old article on cults)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201109/impulse-control-why-is-it-harder-ever (a.small overview on impulse control)

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