Motivated Reasoning refers to the all too human ability to find “logical” reasons to do what we already want to do v. to find the optional or best approach. The desired outcome becomes a filter by which contrary evidence is discounted and supportive evidence is elevated or subject to less scrutiny or skepticism.
We don’t do it on purpose but it’s almost automatic to engage in “identity-protective cognition”, a fancy phrase which means we identify strongly with our beliefs and we instinctively defend them, believing we are protecting our self-concept and identity and doing so by engaging in biased information search, confirmation bias and biased data assimilation.
In the smaller decisions of life, which movie to see or restaurant to go to, motivated reasoning is probably harmless. But when it comes to the majors that shape our life and impact our destiny, engaging in flawed reasoning that leads to sub-optimal outcomes is rather… stupid.
Self-awareness (Journal! Therapy!), developing critical thinking skills, refining our mega-cognition (thinking about how we think) abilities are all healthy ways to increase one’s ability to think rationally. But more than anything else, learn to separate who YOU are, your identity, from your opinions and beliefs. It’s okay to change your mind, for your opinions to evolve and unfold as you learn and grow. Indeed, it has been said that anyone incapable of changing their mind doesn’t have one.
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford, 1863-1947
“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt (Men willingly believe what they wish to be true).” – Julius Caesar, 100 BC-44 BC
“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” – William James, 1842-1910
“Life is made up of judgment calls, and the more you can avoid distorting your perception of reality, the better your judgment will be.” – Julia Galef, ‘The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier