2016, Psychology, Society

We do not want to know what we do not want to know

People say we’re rational. Human beings may be animals, but we are animals who have overcome our animal natures to make calculated decisions about our choices. I mean, look at all we’ve accomplished with our big brains. We tell each other we think rationally, even logically. And we  want rational explanations for what is happening in the world. We want to know why things happen.

But every person who believes this is wrong to a degree. Human beings are not entirely rational. We may be able to think rationally or even logically about certain select things but, usually, we’re driving by emotions, not pure calculation.

Human rationality are our predominant trait flies in the face of the history of our species. We have so much evidence of our irrationality – especially irrationality at the times where we should be, where we need to be, most rational – that you would think we’d have come to some broad agreement that that rational part of human beings doesn’t always win out in our decision making processes. But no, we haven’t. Instead, only some psychologists acknowledge this. Most of the rest of us insist we’re rational, even if we add the caveat “most of the time.”

We don’t like being made aware of our own irrationality. That’s why we haven’t come to this consensus. But, every so often, something comes along that does a really good job of showing how human beings really operate. One such piece of work is the episode “Blame Game” from Malcolm Gladwell’s new Revisionist History podcast.

In this episode, you will hear about how human beings in government, in the media and in society at large ignored the obvious cause of a serious problem because that answer was too upsetting to most people.  Instead of accepting the evidence, they’d rather blame someone else, which is exactly what happened. And the “blame game” is taken to absurd extremes.

I hope you will listen to this episode.

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