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Culture & Religion

Why We Act Against Our Own Best Interest

We often find ourselves working against our own best wishes, but why? It’s not merely a matter of procrastination and willpower, say psychologists, but of taking our emotional temperature.

What’s the Latest Development?

Psychologists from Harvard, Stanford and Duke have written two new books that go beyond notions of willpower and procrastination to examine the nuts of bolts of why humans act against their own best interest. Scheduled for release in March, the books add evidence to the notion that humans do not act as rationally as economists once supposed we did. Instead, we are given to irrational tendencies like the phenomenon known as confirmation bias in which the confidence we have in our own opinion causes us to gather research that confirms our point of view (at the exclusion of others which may be more correct).  

What’s the Big Idea?

The narrow focus we have on our own emotions can also cause us problems. A bad temper caused by a traffic jam, for example, can carry over into a date or business meeting, and our failure to recognize the source of negative emotions can lead us to pin them on others. In essence, humans are overconfident, emotional and irrational. But given our shortsightedness, how should we begin fixing our mental miscues? “Being aware when we make decisions that our own feelings, our relationships to others and outside powers all have an impact is a good start.”

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Read it at The New York Times


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