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Taking Command of Our Egocentric Nature Humans often engage in irrational behavior. We fight. We start wars. We kill. We are self-destructive. We are.

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Presentation on theme: "Taking Command of Our Egocentric Nature Humans often engage in irrational behavior. We fight. We start wars. We kill. We are self-destructive. We are."— Presentation transcript:


2 Taking Command of Our Egocentric Nature

3 Humans often engage in irrational behavior. We fight. We start wars. We kill. We are self-destructive. We are petty and vindictive. We act out when we don’t get our way. We abuse our spouses. We neglect our children. We rationalize, project, and stereotype.

4 We act inconsistently, ignore relevant evidence, jump to conclusions, and say and believe things that don’t make good sense. We deceive ourselves in many ways. We are our own worst enemy.

5 And yet we are capable of developing as rational persons, of living an ethical life, of contributing to the creation of a just and critical world.



8 There are two overlapping and interrelated motivating impulses behind human irrationality,

9 Human egocentrism: the natural human tendency “to view everything within the world in relationship to oneself, to be self- centered” (Webster’s New World Dictionary); and

10 Human sociocentrism: most simply conceptualized as group egocentricity. To define sociocentricity, we might take Webster’s definition of egocentricity, substituting group for self. Consider: Sociocentric thinking is the natural human tendency to view everything within the world in relationship to one’s group, to be group-centered.

11 Human egocentricity is best understood as having two basic tendencies. One is to see the world in self-serving terms, to constantly seek that which makes one feel good, that which one selfishly wants, at the expense of the rights and needs of others.

12 The second primary tendency of egocentricity is the desire to maintain its beliefs, to see its views as the correct views. It is a form of rigidity of thought. And it views its irrational beliefs as rational.

13 Egocentric thought represents an enormous barrier to the development of the mind.

14 Think for yourself: Beginning to understand egocentrism Think of the most self-centered person you know. This may be someone who is fundamentally selfish or arrogant. Describe the person’s behavior in detail. Based on the person’s behavior, how would you describe her/his thinking? What types of feelings does s/he display? What is the person motivated to do? To what extent does the person use other people to get what s/he wants? To what extent does the person exhibit sincere concern for the thoughts and feelings of others?

15 Think for Yourself: Discovering Prejudices in Your Beliefs As egocentric thinkers we see ourselves as in possession of the truth. At the same time, we form many beliefs without the evidence to justify them. In other words, we form many prejudices (judgments before the evidence). If this is true, using our rational capacities we should be able to begin to unearth some of our prejudices. In an attempt to begin this process, complete the following statements:

16 1. One of the prejudices I have is …(think of generalizations you tend to make even though you don’t have the evidence to justify them. It can be about anything you please: about a religion, about atheists, about men, women, homosexuals, heterosexuals, etc…Put your prejudice in this form: All x are y, as in all women are ??, or all men are ??.) 2. A more rational belief with which I should replace this faulty belief is… 3. If I use this new belief in my thinking, my behavior would change in the following ways…

17 Egocentric Standards Used in the Mind Working in pairs, Read and discuss p. 11, Human Mind Guide.

18 Categorize these typical student beliefs, using the “standards” on p. 11. Learning should be fun. Learning should be easy. If I do what the teacher says, that’s all that matters. All I need to do is the absolute minimum to get an A. Learning means doing what the teacher says. I shouldn’t have to waste my time learning anything I can’t use. Whatever our culture believes is important is important. Cheating to get by is fine because all I need is the piece of paper (the college degree) to get a job anyway. I believe that learning biology is a waste of my time. I believe in creationist theory.

19 It doesn’t matter whether I eat lots of fatty foods. The U.S. has never fought an unjust war. I am fundamentally a rational person. It doesn’t matter whether I recycle at home because what little I might do won’t make that much difference anyway. My dog doesn’t really need exercise every day so I don’t really need to take him for a walk every day. Smoking only causes cancer in some people so it probably won’t cause it in me. Life should be without problems.

20 People who don’t agree with our social conventions are wrong. Women are inferior to men. Anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. Students should never question teachers. We live in the best country in the world. We’re number one. A 60 year-old-male with a sexual interest in a female 20 years his junior is a pervert. A 60 year-old-woman with a sexual interest in a male 20 years her junior is a cradle robber.

21 Think For Yourself (5-3): Identifying Some of Your Irrational Beliefs Identify at least one belief you hold in each of the categories. “It’s true because I believe it.” ___________________________________________ “It’s true because we believe it.” ___________________________________________ “It’s true because I want to believe it.” ___________________________________________ “It’s true because I have always believed it. _________________________________________ “It’s true because it is in my selfish interest to believe it.”________________________________

22 Innate Egocentric Traits Working in pairs, read through the intellectual traits on pp. 16-17 in the Concepts and Tools guide, but translate each one into its opposite.

23 For the following insights Process each one in pairs, See if you can identify examples of each one, from student thinking, your own thinking, the thinking of people you know or have known, the thinking of politicians, public figures, etc.

24 Insights from Piaget (1976) Judgment and Reasoning in the Child. Egocentrism of thought necessarily entails a certain degree of unconsciousness, with the egocentric thinker 'in a perpetual state of belief,’ (p. 137) The egocentric thinker is confident in his own ideas, The egocentric thinker is naturally...(untroubled) about the reasons and motives which have guided his reasoning process, The egocentric thinker [seeks] to justify himself in the eyes of others... only under the pressure of argument and opposition..., The egocentric thinker is incapable either by introspection or retrospection of capturing the successive steps...[his] mind has taken (pp. 137-138)

25 The egocentric thinker suffers from illusions of perspective, (p. 165) The egocentric thinker is ignorant of his own ego, takes his own point of view to be absolute, and fails to establish...that reciprocity which alone would ensure objectivity (p. 197) The egocentric thinker [uses] thought... at the service of personal desire. The egocentric thinker simply believes... without trying to find the truth (p. 203). The egocentric thinker assimilates everything he hears to his own point of view. (p. 208) The egocentric thinker does not try to prove whether such and such of his idea does or does not correspond to reality. When the question is put to him, he evades it. It does not interest him, and it is even alien to his whole mental attitude, (p. 247)

26 Relate each of the Piagetian insights to the Innate Egocentric Traits you just formulated

27 Discuss the characteristics outlined in this chart. Identify examples for each that you have personally witnessed. Note the opposites.

28 Discuss with a partner

29 Egocentric Versus Rational Thought Working in pairs. Human Mind Guide – pp. 12-13 Person A – takes the concept of egocentric thinking. Person B – takes the concept of rationality. Read in order to teach your concept to your partner.

30 Discuss the diagram on p. 14. Focus on each part, comparing the rational with the irrational. Generate questions as you give meaning to the diagram. Then move on to p. 15, 18. Generate examples and questions.

31 Pathological Dispositions of the Human Mind Working in groups of three. Human Mind guide, pp. 21-23. Read each pathological disposition on p. 21, and identify examples for each one. Then after reading and exemplifying each one, read the methods for challenging the pathological disposition you are focused on. Exemplify each corrective method.

32 Defense Mechanisms of the Mind Working in pairs. Human Mind guide, pp. 24-25. Read each defense mechanism, and identify examples for each one. Background questions: How often to you see these exemplified in human life? How often do you engage in them? Which of these are the most prevalent in human life and in your life?

33 Think for Yourself : Focusing on Denial as a Mechanism of Irrationality Although the egocentric dimension of the mind uses multiple defense mechanisms to maintain its self-centered view, we will focus on just one for this activity, that of denial. Think of a relationship you are in now in which you have a selfish interest in seeing things a particular way, though the facts probably don’t support your conclusions.

34 For example, let’s say you want to believe that your spouse really loves you, though his/her actual behavior toward you indicates that you are probably being used by her/him principally as a vehicle of her/his self-gratification. Or, for another example, let’s say that you want to believe that you are treating your significant other respectfully, but the facts show that you often treat him/her with little respect and consideration. You would find admitting that to be painful. Complete these statements: The situation is… What I have denied accepting in this situation is… I have avoided the truth by telling myself the following untruth… I realize I have denied looking at the truth in the situation because… Some implications that have followed from the fact that I have been in denial about this situation are…

35 Think for Yourself: Dealing With the Egocentrism of Others Think of a situation you were recently in where you felt someone you were interacting with became irrational in her/his response to you. Complete these statements: The situation was … What I did/said was… The reaction of this person was … I believe this person’s thinking was… I think this reaction/thinking was egocentric because… The best response I could have made to this egocentric behavior would have been… I might have been able to avoid stimulating an egocentric response, in the first place, by …

36 Think for Yourself: Recognizing When Other’s Egocentrism Calls Out Your Egocentrism Think of a situation you were recently in where you felt yourself becoming irrational in reaction to someone’s else’s irrationality. Complete these statements: The situation was … I reacted in the situation by … In thinking through the situation, I realize that a more rational way to respond to the other person would have been …



39 The Truth

40 Personal responsibility

41 Headache

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