Thursday, 16 August 2012



In psychology and logic, rationalization also known as making excuses is an unconscious defense mechanism in which perceived controversial behaviors or feelings are logically justified and explained in a rational or logical manner in order to avoid any true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable – or even admirable and superior – by plausible means. Rationalization encourages irrational or unacceptable behavior, motives, or feelings and often involves ad hoc hypothesizing. This process ranges from fully conscious (e.g. to present an external defense against ridicule from others) to mostly subconscious (e.g. to create a block against internal feelings of guilt).
People rationalize for various reasons. Rationalization may differentiate the original deterministic explanation of the behavior or feeling in question. Sometimes rationalization occurs when we think we know ourselves better than we do. It is also an informal fallacy of reasoning.

DSM definition

According to the DSM-IV, rationalization occurs "when the individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by concealing the true motivations for his or her own thoughts, actions, or feelings through the elaboration of reassuring or self serving but incorrect explanations."

Cognitive dissonance

Main article: Cognitive dissonance
A rather different, but perhaps complementary, approach to rationalization comes from cognitive dissonance. 'In 1957. Leon Festinger...argued that when people become aware that their attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs ("cognitions") are inconsistent with one another, this realization brings with it an uncomfortable state of tension called cognitive dissonance '.
One answer to the discomfort of the situation is that 'their minds rationalize it by inventing a comfortable illusion'. Thus for example 'people who start to smoke again after quitting for a while perceive smoking to be less dangerous to their health, compared to their views when they decided to stop' - thereby averting their 'post-decisional regret' through their new rationalization.
In a similar way, acts of aggression will often be seen as 'reasonable, well justified, even necessary...rationalizing their self-interest in these ways'; so that, to cite 'Martin Luther King, Jr...."It seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some rationalization to clothe their act"'. The same may be said of the collective scale. 'When groups commit aggression, they, too, rationalize their acts with high-sounding words...rationalizing their own self-interested desires', so that, for example, 'The own God is the right God. The other God is the strange God....Our own soldiers take care of the poor families; the enemy rapes them'.
Such collective rationalizations come close perhaps to the communal illusions of which Freud wrote as 'derived from human wishes...Must not the assumptions that determine our political regulations be called illusions as well? and...may not other cultural assets of which we hold a high opinion and by which we let our lives be ruled be of a similar nature

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