Opinion Article
Volume 1 Issue 6 - 2017
The Self and Stupidity
James F Welles*
Department of Psychology, PO Box 17, East Marion, New York, USA
*Corresponding Author: James F Welles, Department of Psychology, PO Box 17, East Marion, New York, USA.
Received: December 06, 2017; Published: December 19, 2017
A crucial factor contributing to the development of stupidity is a false sense of the "Self". [1] The theoretically ideal self is an organized, consis­tent set of perceptions and beliefs. Unfortu­nately for idealizing people, most selves are disorganized and inconsistent. This just happens to be the invariable result of the compromise nature of the schema. People live in a gritty world of real, immediate problems which must be solved pragma­tically, and in coping, they are somewhat re­stricted in per­ception by the language of and in means by the norms of their refer­ence group. When there is conflict among these interac­ting as­pects of the human c­ondi­tion-when one per-ceives the necessity of act­ing in a manner not con­doned by society, the self will blend short-term immediate survival w­ith some kind of justifica­tion compre­hensible to anyone concerned enough to care but not objec­tive enough to be critical.
Along with the basic duality of the individual/social self is the dual­ity of the static/dynamic self. The intrinsic compro­mise in the latter case is one of balancing self-preserva­tion against self-seeking beha­vior. [2] Self-pres­ervation is a basic, fun­damental aspect of life: in human terms, it is ex­pressed as a conservative dedication to the status quo. Self-seek­ing be­hav­ior, on the other hand, is directed toward self-enhancement by pro­vid­ing for the future. Many crucial decisions in life require a per­son to take a self-conscious risk in trading off security for oppor­tunity. In gen­eral, younger people tend to be self-seekers; older people tend to be self-pre­servers, since their schema tends to favor its established ways as it be­comes more entrenched through the years. At the moment of deci­sion for an individual confronting a particular problem, the only thing clear to an ob­server is that this is but another of the very arbitrar­y/sub­jective dimen­sions of the human condition. Just which strategy will be employed or how much risk will be taken depends very much on who is mak­ing the deci­sion and especially who is taking the risk.
Oddly enough, self-seeking is promoted by social support. En­hanced self-assurance encourages people to assert themselves as individuals, so when the reference group provides favorable rein­forcement (approval) to members, it makes indepen-dence more like­ly. The self-confidence engen­dered by commonly perceived success makes one willing to attempt fur­ther endeavors. [3] This may in fact disrupt the group and can lead an in­dividual to overreach his ability, but this is the price that must be paid for being open to the possibility of individual enhancement.
The motivation for such difficulty stems largely from the self-ap­proval made possible by the biased structuring of the feedback sys­tem. Data con­tradictory to a flattering self-image are blocked or interpreted so that be­havior can be viewed in an emotionally acceptable context. [4] It is ­­­noteworthy that one's emo­tional need sets the standard to which reality is mold­ed. It is difficult to overestimate the role that such a mech­anism can play in misdirecting behavior. Sustaining rein­forcement can be gener­ated internally so as to main-tain the inde­pendence of a parti­cular pattern of be­havior from moderating in­fluences of the environ­ment, while much of the poten­tial negative rein-force­ment from the environment sim­ply does not penetrate the system. [5]
The worst result of this disruption of feedback for the sake of self-image is that it really can motivate people to make er­rors. It separates people from their environment and makes them relatively independent so that they can pursue their own notions without regard for their relevance or the negative consequences engen­dered. A classic example of this pro­cess in action is the manner in which dissidents are suppressed by totali­tarian re­gimes. Such tactics are usually simply denied by the es­tablish­ment or, alternatively, justified because of the disrup­tive na­ture of the criticism. Policies of suppression may do nothing to solve existent social prob­lems, may even promote internal hos­tility against the rul­ers but al­so may promote a pos­itive image for leaders, so long as knowl­edge of s­uch suppres­sion can also be suppressed.
  1. Rogers C. “Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups”. (1970) Harper & Row; New York.
  2. Shaver K. Principles of Social Psychology. 2nd ed. (1981) Winthrop; Cam-bridge, MA. 246.
  3. Coopersmith S. The Antecedents of Self-esteem. Freeman; San Fran-cisco. CA (1967).
  4. Singer J. (Ed.) Repression and Dissociation: Implication for Person-ality Theory, Psychopathology, and Health. University of Chicago Press; Chi-cago, IL. (1990)
  5. Bandura A. “The self-system in reciprocal determinism”. American Psy-chologist 33 1979): 344-358.
Citation: James F Welles. “The Self and Stupidity”. Current Opinions in Neurological Science 1.6 (2017): 314-315.
Copyright: © 2017 James F Welles. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.