In effect, as a friend pointed out, they expected me to manage the conversation for them, so they didn't have to take responsibility for their fear of confrontation — which was how they saw a good argument. Curiously, they often then stomped angrily off to yell at someone else about how they were right and I was unkind and illogical, or attacked them unfairly, or was just an intellectual snob who refused to listen.

How can they do this, and claim in the same breath I'm intimidating them? For that matter, let's lay out some questions which have been bothering me for a while:

  1. Why do people attempt to accomplish their goals with emotion or manipulation instead of logic, then seem surprised when they consequently harm themselves?

  2. Once they're self-proclaimedly miserable, have harmed themselves by those emotional reactions, and it's clear those reactions didn't accomplish their desired goals — why don't they change their behavior, instead of self-indulgently clinging to those same damagingly illogical behaviors? Why do they invest themselves in their emotionalism, when they've already seen that sort of thoughtless reacting is harmful to them? Why can't they separate their personal worth from their beliefs?
  3. (…and perhaps most personally perplexing): Why do they get angry at me when they see me accomplish my goals through logic, or when I suggest logic instead of emotion might help them achieve their desired goals? Do they think I'm mocking them or something?

The above are seriously puzzling questions to me. I've not yet found answers which satisfy me. I guess I'll keep looking, as the following shows, although sometimes it's just painful to watch.

Confusing realizations

I've read several studies about the general populace and how they come to conclusions, and talked to many, many very intelligent people, in an effort to figure this out. I'm not sure I've really got a grasp on it yet, but it's been my experience if I can clearly explain a concept I will better understand it, so here goes.

First, the hardest conclusion for me to grasp and the one I most wanted to have proven false: most people are not logical at all — they are, quite simply, driven by their emotions. In effect, they have a very different frame of reference than logical thinkers. They may be emotively rational, but they didn't use logic to get there, and they see no reason to ever do so.

Secondly, as mentioned above, most people are emotively rational, as in they usually come to conclusions on the basis of emotional grounds. The reasoning seems to be: by feeling/doing [X] I got what I wanted last time, therefore it will work that way again this time, because I want it to.

Thirdly, the less competent they are, the surer they are of their competence. Since they believe in their own competence, those conclusions they reached via emotion often become part of their personally reassuring belief system, because they most certainly are correct. Therefore, questioning one of their beliefs appears to them as questioning them — as a personal attack.

Why are we in this condition? I'm not sure, but it would certainly seem we're being heavily trained by our mass media and advertising industries to simply react, not reason. The general tenet they seem to be pushing is if you feel good you are good — and you'll feel great with this product!

For a more logical review of this sorry situation, let's try some scientific studies. In one study I read, the authors concluded only the competent had the intellectual tools to evaluate competence. The competent also assume they must be about average in ability (even when studies show they're in the upper 90 percentiles), because they can tell they're not the best, and they assume everyone has the same intellectual tools they have.

The incompetent, however, have no such intellectual tools to work with, and can see the competent worrying about their success rate. Their ensuing reasoning apparently goes something like this: If all those seemingly competent people are so full of doubt regarding their success, and I am not doubtful at all concerning my success, then I must be more successful than they.

I've also heard postulations regarding emotive reasoning being an evolutionarily beneficial trait which is now a detriment in this modern age. Using pattern matching behaviors and being confident in one's success (i.e. this worked before, therefore it will work again) would seem a reasonable way for a pre- or even post-sapient hominid (including modern children) to learn quickly, remember well, and end up with a useful repertory of formerly successful behaviors to try in new situations.

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