Rationalising the irrational

Right now in Hong Kong, because of the Occupy Central movement, people have become highly polarized. Those who don’t belong to the silent majority are either vehemently defending the protesters, or are fanatically abusing the street occupants. There is no discussion between the two camps, only verbal, and sometimes physical, insults. Both camps think that are in the right, and that their opponents are imbeciles.

In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, acclaimed cartoonist Scott Adams points out that while we feel good thinking that we act and reason rationally, in reality, most of the time we are simply rationalising our bias.  He advises:

“It is tremendously useful to know when people are using reason and when they are rationalising the irrational. You’re wasting your time if you try to make someone see reason when reason is not influencing the decision. If you’ve ever had a frustrating political debate with your friend who refuses to see the logic of your argument, you know what I mean. But bear in mind that the friend sees you exactly the same way.” (p. 117)

I know what he means, and since I’m only an ordinary mortal with hundreds of other fun things to occupy myself with, I re-join the silent majority.


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