What's The Difference Between Rationality And Rationalizing?

Posted on November 20, 2015

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The "ize" turns the adjective "rational" into a verb suggesting deliberate effort, contrivance and artifice. Rationalizing is actively putting a rational gloss on our irrational behavior.

How can we tell when someone is rationalizing instead of just being rational? There's no perfectly reliable formula though we sometimes act like there is. One rule we rely upon is that if the rational explanation comes after the behavior ("Um, yeah, no I meant to do that because...") then it's rationalizing, which is funny. It implies the false assumption that all human behavior is consciously motivated.

If there's one thing psychologists have discovered, it's that the majority of human behavior is unconsciously motivated, the product of habit or intuition, not prior deliberation. That’s what minds do. They’re not computers but computer generators. Any behavior we can put reliably on autopilot we do. That’s a deeply rational thing to do, in that it frees our minds to concentrate on what remains uncertain, what can’t be put on autopilot.

It turns out there isn’t one true straight-line for rationality. “Rational” comes from ratio, in other words relative value, this worth more than that. Things have different relative value for each of us. Broadly defined, all choices are rational, comparisons of relative worth, which are different for different people in different circumstances.

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Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions

Source material from Psychology Today


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