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NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Why, being logical human beings, do we continue bad habits.. knowing the end result?

Asked by NaturalMineralWater (11267 points ) February 15th, 2009

Such as smoking, being gluttonous, dating bad people, spending money on stupid things.. Why is it we can’t force ourselves to see the logic in avoiding this behavior for our own personal “greater good”? What is our issue?

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17 Answers

Trustinglife's avatar

We are more than logical beings. We are deeply influenced by strategies we adopted to cope with major stress when we were little. Why else would we do these “negative” things! It serves us in some way.

And then how to change? Befriend that aspect of us that is doing the behavior we don’t like. Understand it, appreciate it, and work with it. Start with respect, not condemnation.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Many people believe they are the exception to the rule. The probable outcome will not happen to them.

tb1570's avatar

As @Trustinglife pointed out, it’s primarily b/c we are not always “logical” human beings. Emotion is a key part of our existence (and has been part of our evolution, so it must serve some sort of purpose) and perhaps rules us more than anything else. The end result is we are imperfect, often driven by feelings we ourselves don’t even understand. We are full of contradictions, conflictions and “illogical” tendencies. If we were always “logical,” would we love? Would we create music, art, literature or even delicious food?

It is our blessing and our curse. It is what makes us human.

Bluefreedom's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock. That’s exactly the way I thought when I had terrible eating habits and never exercised and because of my ignorance, my health went down the drain and I was diagnosed with diabetes 3 years ago. What a huge wake up call. My indifferent attitude contributed to me being a statistic.

I was addicted to chewing tobacco for 23 years and I finally quit cold turkey several years ago because I finally forced myself to heed the advice from my dentist and family members about the hazards to my health. Quitting a tobacco product was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

I think another reason that some people might continue bad habits is because they have a lack of willpower to end the habit and/or a general disinterest in the benefits of quitting such habits.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I think I knew the answer to this question already but I was inspired by Randy Pausch’s approach to his imminent death to cancer as a simple engineering problem. He concluded that there was no point in wallowing in self despair and decided on a course of action that would utilize the resources he had available to him to better the lives of those he loved with what little time he had left. His approach seemed so logical and I realize there was grieving, pain and sadness behind the scenes, but it was refreshing to see nonetheless.

LostInParadise's avatar

Many assume that within us is the equivalent of a soul, a single location that directs our actions. It is not true. Our brain is comparmentalized. Different parts of the brain compete for attention. That is one way that we become conflicted. What is extraordinary is the extent to which the various brain components present something approaching a unified whole.

grasshopper's avatar

Most people aren’t comfortable with change. It’s much easier to do what is routine. It takes effort to change. I had an alcohol addiction for over 20 years. It was really hard to leave my comfort zone, and give it up. Even after 5 years, temptation is still out there. It still takes hard work. I choose to keep doing the job. It’s just a matter of how important different situations are to you.

mea05key's avatar

the bad always bring satisfaction.

marinelife's avatar

Loic flaw in premise of question: “we are logical human beings.” Think iceberg. The cognitive us is the little tip showing above the water.

aprilsimnel's avatar

A lot of these behaviors, smoking, eating badly and so on, are attempts to soothe ourselves and to cope using strategies that we took on as kids using kid logic. Being kids, we came up with flawed premises as to why things were happening to us and our ways of coping weren’t very logical. And we kept them as adults because we see our selves as fixed and our behaviors as personality traits. We try to make the relationship with our parents right over and over again, too, and so we choose bad partners. We aren’t our behaviors or thoughts or feelings. We aren’t our pasts. Knowing that is important.

At least this is some of what I’m learning now. And it’s scary, as I’m used to behaving as I have for years, but it gives me a sense that things don’t have to stay the way they have been in my life and I have some agency to make changes beneficial to me and others around me.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@Marina Why not just say: “We’re not as logical as you might think” and drop all the blither. =D

Jayne's avatar

Humans like to be logical creatures, but sometimes our intelligence betrays us. Think of all the bizarre philosophies that logic has given us over time. Perhaps it would be fair to say that we are a species driven by emotion and aesthetic instinct, and that logic is simply a construct that appeals to those senses, which we follow only so long as it continues to do so. Since it is subservient to instinct, when the instincts of someone in the throes of addiction tell them to indulge their craving, logic will support rather than contradict the impulse, telling them that it is best for their mental health, their image, whatever. The only way logic can overcome addiction is if it is employed when the craving is weak, and is used to embed a repulsion towards the object of addiction into the instinctual side of the mind.

laureth's avatar

If we really took into account the time, trouble, lack of freedom, and expense of raising a child, I believe very few people would have kids. That would be pretty bad for the continuation of the species, and it’s also likely to be the reason that sex feels so darn good – to make us have it anyway, despite the huge potential cost.

I think lots of our “bad habits” are like that – things that in moderation are good, but taken to extreme are very bad. It’s only recently (in terms of human history) that we’ve had the ability and resources to take them to the bad extreme.

Back in the day when we hunted and gathered, it was beneficial to eat as much food as possible. You never knew where the next food might come from. If you stored it, it might go bad or be eaten by someone else. So you ate it and stored it as fat. The people who ate the most (and were the best at turning it into fat) survived the famine and reproduced. As such, we have the genes to make copious fat. However, becoming too fat wasn’t a problem back then, because you exercised a lot and food was relatively scarce. Now we don’t exercise, and food is almost always at easy reach, but we still want to behave in the old way because our genes don’t know yet that the next famine isn’t right around the corner.

Survival instinct trumps logic.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@laureth If we really took into account the survival of the species, having babies would be logical at some point.. AND it feels good making them. We could deduce that the minor inconvenience of child rearing was necessary to prolong human life.

As far as our collective “fat problem”: along with our apparent inability to stop stuffing our faces we have also had technological advances in science and medicine. These have yielded copious evidence that over-eating is unhealthy regardless of our ability to decipher the difference between hunting down your local big game and wolfing down the closest twinky. Yet somehow we snub our noses at certain doom and willingly plunge into our new lives as diabetics with clogged arteries just for the brief moment of joy we get by licking out the gooey center of a hostess cream filled cupcake.

Is emotion to blame for all of this? Are the conflicts in the different parts of our brain preventing us from seeing the obvious danger signs? Indeed we are not as logical as we might think.

laureth's avatar

I think instinct is a little deeper-seated than emotion. Or, to put it differently, I think things other than emotion are at work.

Macaulay's avatar

Hedonism FTW/FTL.

dogkittycat's avatar

With some bad habits they’re difficult to break, admitting you have a problem and doing something about it are two completly different things. Some habits are addictive and are difficult to break away from. In some cases the person may not have the ambition or courage to change and stop whatever the “bad habit” may be. I think in a lot of cases it’s the lack of will, and that’s why people don’t change their ways.

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