Monday, January 30, 2012

Justification: Example

I tend to be nice because it works. I can come up with rationalizations and reasons about why nice is better than nasty-- better for me and for society. But I don't think, deep down, that is what is going on.

I can be a dick. There are times when it is appropriate and works, but those times are relatively rare. I tend to be nice instead. Not because of any big ideals. No global ethic or right-or-wrong. Not even because being nice is a more effective strategy more often. Those things may all be true. I believe they are. But they are the rationalizations and justifications, not the reason.

Being a dick increases friction. It makes my life harder. My human brain has reasoned out all the other stuff I said above. A turtle wouldn't need any of that. 'Life is easier' is reason enough.

It's not universal. Some people eschew the 'nice' strategy and go for the 'jerk' strategy because it works-- for what they want or want to avoid. Some like friction. Some are jerks to get left alone, which also decreases friction. Some enjoy even negative attention. And being nice and having friends does take effort.

No two people like or value the same things in the same way. Did you automatically try to figure out a 'why' for that? Nature? Nurture? Seeking justification? Is the simple truth that people are different too simple?

Some people look for attached meanings, and see them for what they are. Same with attached reasons.



Anonymous said...

"Being a dick increases friction. It makes my life harder."


WING CHUN INCas said...

Hi Rory, there are 2 types of people in this World, those that think there are 2 types of People and those that Don't.

Josh Kruschke said...


Lise Steenerson said...

Said the only man I know who can "smile" with his eyes alone ;-)

Charles James said...

I have never understood the "why" of a person who seeks out and lives for negativity, conflict, etc. but your assessment seems to provide one ....
the need for even negative attention ..... sigh.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase Patrick Swayze in 'Roadhouse' - always be nice, and when it's time to not be so nice, still be nice. For me this translates to: if an ass-whupin' is the only way to get you to stop being stupid, then you get what you want. I won't be sad about it, or sorry afterwards, I'll just do it 'nicely.'

Josh Kruschke said...

Steve P. -

I believe he was sugesting the opposite. That most people do things with out conscious thought, then if pressed come up with a reason why they did it.

This why I believe to know someone's( including your self) true charater watch what they actually do, and not to what they say they believe.

Steve I think your falling into the everyone makes reational decisions, and forgetting sometime we make them on feelings. Three brains remember.


Josh Kruschke said...

But, Steve that's just my justification(reasoning) for not agreeing with you.


Anonymous said...

I look at the "prisoners dilema "
sometimes it is to my benefit to be "nice" ( most of the time actually) .and sometimes it isn't, recently not being nice has paid off handsomly ( big grin)

Eric Parsons said...

"Not even because being nice is a more effective strategy more often." - But isn't the fact that it is a more effective strategy more often one of the reasons that being nice makes your life easier? I agree that making life easier is the root factor, but the effectiveness is one of the channels through which it works.

This discussion reminds me a bit of utility theory in economics. :)


Steve Perry said...

"Steve I think your falling into the everyone makes reational decisions, and forgetting sometime we make them on feelings. Three brains remember."

Um, actually, what I said was the opposite, I believe, Josh. That "assuming conscious intent" part. and "lot of folks don't realize ..."

I will strive for more clarity.

Rory said...

Eric- What I'm getting at is that these conscious reasons/reasonings/strategies/justifications are constructed after the fact.

Two related things-
1) The only way to get at real reasons is to check your predictability. If I can more reliably tell what you will do than you can, then my observations are closer to the underlying reasons than your beliefs about your motivations.
2) IME most people know their rationalizations very well (and can argue why they are right). Far fewer know the reasons and even fewer are comfortable with statements of fact without reasons. I don't like the texture of oysters. I don't like the taste of brie. these are true. Once I start explaining why, there is more room for true to wiggle aay.

Josh Kruschke said...

Steve P -

As will I.

I'll also try to see past my (first) presumption.


Drew said...

Lol at the first comment. Nice article, have you thought about personal experience. My current line of work requires me to be "nice" - to the point that I have to be compliant (retail). So whenever I get off of work I feel a sigh of relief because I can actually stand up for myself...

...which in turn, I can come off as a sarcastic asshole. Anyway, just found your site now. Great site - subscribed.