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wundayatta's avatar

What tells you more about a persons motivations: what they say they believe or how they behave?

Asked by wundayatta (58525points) March 5th, 2012

A lot of people say they believe one thing, but they don’t behave as if that belief motivates their actions. So what is going on? What is the relationship between beliefs and actions, in your view of personality?

Do you think that what a person says they believe is a good guide to their behavior? Or do you think beliefs are not all that relevant in understanding a person’s motivations?

Please give examples if possible and explain why you think what you think.

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11 Answers

HungryGuy's avatar

How they behave, duh!

For example, a typical corporate CEO will give a speech, ”...we care about the quality of life of all people, and give generously to the United Way…” and then lay off thousands of employees so they add another Lamborghini to their collection.

GoldieAV16's avatar

I think behavior is complex, and there are many influences that motivate us: our upbringing, our environment, our subconscious, our mood, our chemistry, what we think, what others think, what we think others think, our nutrition, our health, whether we’re tired, drugs, geez, I could name a lot. I try not to concern myself with what motivates me or what motivates others. It tends to get me stuck in my head, pseudo-analyzing.

DrBill's avatar

a lot of people talk about actions they don’t have the fortitude to do themselves, what they do is beyond question.

Coloma's avatar

Oh jesus, actions, of course. I am in process of really noticing someone I know and how their words don’t match their actions a lot of the time. Nothing hardcore dishonest, but hypocritical.
They say they have realized that they can never truly know how someone else feels, yet they are constantly telling others what they are feeling, thinking, meaning. Gah!
They fancy themselves some sort of life coach and are constantly advising others, yet they contradict themselves, sometimes in the same few minutes of conversation. lol

Talking about how they advised someone to take a different approach in their communication but then bulldozing anyone who disagrees with their approach! haha
They constantly “talk” about empathy and compassion yet, clearly, they feel superior to most others and have a very condescending and rather contemptuous attitude.

I have been journeling after our interactions and their contradictions have already filled an entire page. I see a lot of show and little go. haha

Cruiser's avatar

It is part of human nature that we all want to do the right thing and do as we say we will do. For the most part in our routine daily lives we acomplish this with ease. But often circumstances arise that can challenge us in ways that we say one thing and do the other. Sometimes it is out of ego to perpetuate a self perceived persona we feel the need to maintain. Or it manifests in an all out lie where it is easier to say what we feel they want to hear us say and hope they don’t notice when we fall short of those expectations.

Alcoholics and drug addicts or other mental disorders can cripple ones better judgement to where they are saying all sorts of things to manipulate situations and relationships as that is the easy way to get what they or you want…which is rarely a sustainable course of action as the other party(s) will grow weary of empty and broken promises.

All and all, true trustworthy character is when we our actions meet or exceed our words. Actions in fact do speak louder than words.

CaptainHarley's avatar

In much of the human population of the planet, cognitive dissonance is a way of life.

wundayatta's avatar

@CaptainHarley That’s interesting. What do you make of that? Why do you think people seem to live with cognitive dissonance instead of trying to match actions and thoughts?

CaptainHarley's avatar


Thinking requires effort that people don’t want to make. Much easier to accept the pre-digested pablum dished out by media. Plus, most people aren’t ever taught to actually think. Most public schools don’t teach thinking as a skill, perhaps because most of the teachers don’t know how either.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Push come shove, actions. For me though, I like to know a person’s beliefs and ideals in order to gauge the spread between that and their actions. This gives me an idea of how far I can trust or rely upon that person and in what spheres. I assume most people do this similarly.

DaphneT's avatar

How they behave is more informative than what they claim to believe. Body language, tone, nonverbal cues are 80–90% of human conversation so behavior not in alignment with stated beliefs really tells what kind of person they are. One thing their stated beliefs can do is give you a glimmer of where they would like to be or where they think they are in their growth as a human being, the distance between actions and statements tells us much of their character.

josie's avatar

Didn’t some wise person once say “Actions speak louder than words”? I could be wrong.

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