Pathologizing Human Behavior

Sep 26, 2019Podcast

Research on human behavior notes that we often excuse personal bad behavior using external variables, yet blame internal unchangeable qualities for the same actions in others. Further, we rationalize behavior, by placing it into a personally coherent narrative or story. Unfortunately, we are only able to perceive the story and details we are currently focused on thereby losing sight of the many details not currently seen.

In science there’s a built-in mechanism for continuing to ask questions and a peer review process to help doubt flourish even after conclusions have been reached. When it comes to humanity, there is no built-in process, it has to be taught, practiced and actively engaged in.

The result is a tendency to make what is normal human behavior within disparate social situations, into glaring pointers towards pathology. A person lies and it’s a sign they’re a sociopath and pathological liar. A person experiences variations in mood and it’s a sign of bipolar disorder. Periods of sadness are now major depressive disorder. That the person in question faced a difficult choice, went from a challenging environment to a supportive one and is working through a loss, respectively, are all side-notes to the need to identify something aberrant. 

Learning to utilize a process of continued questioning of our behaviors, biases, and underlying thought processes encourages us to become more resilient. We can encourage communication, understanding, and connection by approaching others from a place of exploration making it easier to find common ground. To explore these ideas in more detail check out Why We Make Mistakes by Joseph Hallinan


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