Good psychology

Good post from Felix Salmon about bikers cyclists and breaking the traffic laws. His point about how particular types of people, not bikers cyclists, are the ones who break traffic laws is well-taken. I freely admit, when I biked cycled to work and back three days a week in Auckland, I broke some traffic laws. I’d run red lights, rationalizing my intransigence by telling myself that I was going uphill or would soon be going uphill and that I needed the momentum. This was actually true, because Auckland is hilly as*, but some of my moves were still pretty dickish.

The thing that really interests me, though, is how I immediately rationalized my illegal maneuvers that I would hate if anyone else were to do them. This is the same dynamic that goes for driving and walking. When I’m driving, if some pedestrian crosses, even on a walk, it pisses me off. If I’ve got some speed going, they can see that, and they can just wait a second. If, however, I’m the one walking, and a car bears down on me while I cross, I’m thinking, “Hey asshole, I’ve got the right of way, slow up, you can wait a second.”

The person whose at fault is the person who isn’t me. Always. It’s a terrific embodiment of the “OK for me, but not for thee” cognitive process in real life. I think most people have this process happen a fair amount, whether they know it or not. Because I’m aware that this process happens instinctively, I try to counteract it or at least be aware of it. But this is relevant to pretty much any area of study, because although I guess you could call this cognitive reaction psychological, it’s the way that people work. And most professions/areas of study involve people.

* ‘as’ is New Zealand lingo for ‘extremely.’ So ‘cool as’ means ‘really cool,’ ‘slippery as’ means ‘really slippery’ and so on

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