Friday, October 21, 2011

Irrational Human Behavior

There are several patterns in human behavior, which are hard to understand from a rational viewpoint.
It is particularly surprising that the same patterns can be found independently in many or most human cultures, although they are clearly irrational.
Some of them can be explained by their biological background. However it is surprising that the human ability to use reason has been unable to overcome these patterns.

Here are some examples:

1. Human burial traditions
In all known cultures dead bodies receive a special treatment, although humans are normally aware that a dead person is unable to perceive what is done with his physical remains. Complicated ceremonies have been established around the disposal of dead bodies like burial rituals. These rituals even contradict the widespread belief in an afterlife. If the soul doesn't remain in the dead body, why should it care about this body? These burial ceremonies are almost universal. 
The state of Israel has in several cases even exchanged prisoners for bodies of killed Israeli soldiers. So a lifeless body was valued higher than living prisoners, although the dead body was later of no use for the Israeli government or the relatives of the killed soldier. He was simply buried.

2. Relationship to inanimate objects
Humans often develop a relationship to inanimate objects. Many people would for example not exchange their matrimonial ring for another ring of the same or even higher value. It does not matter if the ring is indistinguishable from the original one. Many people also collect things, which they won't use any more in the future, like souvenirs, gifts or stamp collections.
This is surprising since these people are fully aware that the object in question has no consciousness and it would be without any consequences, if they give it up.

3. Religion and other superstition
Humans are unique in their asumption that there is a god, which is a thing that they haven't seen or experienced in any form. They even make important decisions of their life based on this completely arbitraty asumption. The presence of a god is usually believed to be evidentonly where nobody is able to perceive it, so that he cannot be disproived. There is also the belief that some irrational actions would have consequences on totally unrelated events, like wearing a certain amulett or burning a candle with the intention to influence positively the outcome of something beyond their control, 

4. Body modification 
A major part of humans mutilate their body for no obvious reasons. Very common are perforations of the earlobes or other body parts and sticking small items through the holes. Also very common is cutting off parts of the genitals of infants or children (so called circumcission) or marking their skin with permanent ink (so called tatoos). None of these body modifications fulfills any known function.

5. Conspiracy against children and teenagers
Children are commonly victims of several irrational conspiracies by adults whose purpose is impossible to explain. One example is that adults tell their children that a fictious person called 'Santa Claus' would deliver presents to them during a particular day of the year, although it is usually the parents themselves who prepare these presents for their children. 
Another example is that the biological process of reproduction (sexuality) is for some strange reasons kept secret from children. Questions regarding reproduction are either wrongly or not answered at all, while the whole society makes major efforts to hide anything which is remotely related to sexuality from children leaving them totaly clueless about how they came into being.

6. Feeling of shame when nude
Humans usually feel incomfortable when in their natural state, this means when not covered with artificial clothes. The extemd of the required covering of the body varies among different cultures. It can be limited to the genitals and secondary sexual characteristics up to the entire body with exception of the eyes. In many cases the society has established norms for obligatory covering certain parts of the body, whose violation is punished. This is a very strange behavior pattern, since making clothes to cover the body is an aquired habit and not the natural condition of human beings.

7. Music, singing, dancing
Humans show a tendency to react to some kind of cyclic repeating noise (music), which is intentionally created, but fulfills no further function (music). They start moving in the same rhythm as the noise and even adapt their communication to it by pronouncing words synchronized to the music (singing). The text of these songs is normally totally out of context of what the human is doing in this very moment.

8. Poetry
Humans sometimes create texts whose formal structure is organized in a rhythmic way often sacrificing the precision of the actual the text. These texts are called poems and their meaning is often hard to understand even for humans used to it. The formal structure of language is given priority over the actual purpose of communicating a message, which is severly hindered by this kind of text.

9. Taboo of particular synonyms for words considered to be offensive
Certain isolated words of human language can cause an extreme emotional reaction in humans, although the word alone carries no message. These words can be related to sexuality or to humkan or animal excrements or an underprivileged group of people. The words are considered offensive and the human society makes efforts to eliminate them from the media. Strangely enough different synonyms with the exact same meaning are not considered offensive. Example: 'cunt' is considered offensive, 'vulva' is not considered offensive, both words having the same meaning.

10. Exaggerated protection of children 
Humans value their children higher than adults. Special care for offspring may seem biologically reasonable, but considering that the social investment in an infant is significantly less than a fully developed individual, the exaggerated valoration of children by humans is still irrational. For example a crime against a child is considered more severe and punished more severely than the same crime against an adult human being.

11. Phobias
Many humans develop an irrational fear against particular animals like spiders, snakes, mice and others, even when these animals are harmless to them. Affected humans are normally fully aware that their fear is irrational but cannot overcome it anyway.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great read! I love it.

    Human nature, duality and so caled rational/irrational behaviour is a wonderful thing to study, sometimes it can be annoying, knowing the ignorance of the masses, but at least we're kind of self-conscious, which can come in handy in some occassions.

    Keep it up! :)