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❚ rational ❚ meaning ❚ stories ❚ mimetic ✱ Elephant in the Brain

pervasive tendency to rationalize

While we may not be entirely or irredeemably self-deceived, we are often rewarded for acting on selfish impulses yet less so for acknowledging them, prompting our brains to respond predictably by strategically maintaining ignorance about our own motives despite pretending to know the “whys” behind our behavior.

Rationalization, sometimes known to neuroscientists as confabulation, is the production of fabricated stories made up without conscious intent to deceive. They’re not lies exactly, but neither the honest truth. The “motives” are the underlying causes of behavior, whether consciously known or not. “Reasons” are the verbal explanations given to account for behavior.

Rationalizing our own motives seems remarkably effortless as we habitually fabricate stories to account for behavior, yet it’s exceptionally difficult for others to challenge counterfeit reasons posed as honest internal accountsof our mental machinations.

One of the most effective ways to rationalize is by telling half-truths. In other words, to cherry-pick the most acceptable, prosocial reasons while concealing the uglier ones.

brain’s press secretary interpreter module