Author Topic: Human nature, myopic or hypocrisy?  (Read 1227 times)


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Human nature, myopic or hypocrisy?
« on: April 14, 2017, 04:26:05 PM »
I've noticed the following common themes for decades in my father and it's never bothered me until now. I'd like to ask your thoughts on why people are like this. I suspect there are a lot of people in the world who share these characteristics but that is just conjecture on my part.

He complains that politicians don't think long term, save for rainy days, only plan for the present, not the future, etc. (An observation I would agree with, btw)
In his own personal life, he's never saved very much. Only able to retire on Social Security and supplemented by the modest inheritance he received from his parents. (Always kinda bothered me, but, hey, people are how they are and it hasn't really bothered me much once I became an adult. Although I did worry if he would ever be able to retire.)
He talks about spending everything and dying with nothing as 'perfect timing'. I get the real sense that he considers unspent money to be 'foregone pleasure', and we can't take it with us, so might as well enjoy it here while we can. I really do expect him to spend as much as possible before he shuffles off this mortal coil. He's an average Baby Boomer consumer in that regard.

And it is this final point that just drives me absolutely bonkers. Not because I want (or need) the money, but because how this runs counter to the first point and even how his parents saved his retirement bacon, so to speak but he's not interested in passing anything on to the next generation.

I get the fact that it's his money and he can do whatever he wants with it. He's welcome to do whatever he wants. I have more money now than I can ever spend, so he has no bearing on my financial well-being at any level. I'm just really bothered by the conflicting signals being sent.

Does anyone else have people in the family like this? How do you handle it on an intellectual level?


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Re: Human nature, myopic or hypocrisy?
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2017, 11:57:11 AM »
I notice this all the time, with family members, friends, colleagues, etc.

> I'd like to ask your thoughts on why people are like this.
I have thought about this, and IMHO a lot of cognitive biases in the human brain cause these less than rational behaviors and thought patterns.

I will refer to contents in this link:

For example:
  • The need to be right - this may have some evolutionary bearing on survival.  Consider two creatures - A & B.  Let's say A thinks highly of itself, while B doesn't.  Which one is more likely to fight for its own survival in a difficult situation?  Probably, A.  Confidence (to some extent) helps survival by being able to intimidate other creatures, and also by not being intimidated oneself.  This may be causing us to ignore the similarities (in your father's case - the lack of long term thinking as it applies to himself and as it applies to politicians) between situations and conclude that we are right and others are wrong.  Also see the "We notice flaws in others more easily than flaws in ourselves" section in the link.
  • The need for making sense of things: When politicians come up with short term strategies, they may be in the midst of a situation calling for that.  For example: looming elections, popular opinion, etc.  However, if I'm not in the midst of that situation myself, I won't know all the details of it, and I'm now working with nebulous information.  But that doesn't entirely prevent me from jumping to conclusions.  See the section "We find stories and patterns even in sparse data" in the link.
... and I'm sure many more such biases are influencing us on a daily basis.

> How do you handle it on an intellectual level?
Not very well :-(  As I age, I seem to be very slowly getting better at accepting the reality that as a species this is who we are.  But I still get very frustrated when I come across such situations.  Based on my limited experience interacting with people and arguing about politics, etc., I don't think that education (at least the present kind) can solve this problem.  I have encountered people who are doing well in highly analytical jobs who are otherwise very illogical in other areas of thinking.

I have friends who make utterly illogical statements about evolution and such (evolution is just a theory, I believe in micro-evolution but not in macro-evolution).  Very capable colleagues who have exhibited blatant confirmation bias, Appeal to Emotion, Proof by Assertion fallacies, etc, etc, etc.  Until a few years ago, I would spend a lot of time and energy trying to reason with them, trying to break their arguments apart and debunk the illogic.  But by and large it hasn't worked.  And in some cases all it accomplished was to degrade relationships.  So, nowadays I tend to stay away from face-to-face "logical" debates with people.  Sometimes I get sucked in to those conversations in the heat of the moment, but I'm trying not to :-)

« Last Edit: April 16, 2017, 12:12:45 PM by StreetCat »


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Re: Human nature, myopic or hypocrisy?
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2017, 08:22:33 AM »
Thanks for the reply and link.

I see from the raging back-and-forth that this is a popular topic :)

In regards to your last paragraphs about education and logic being good predictors of applying these to their own life: I read a comment by someone once who said "It is hard to use ration and logic to supplant a belief that was not arrived at using logic or ration." Or, in other words; if someone didn't create their belief system with logic, why would you expect logic to be able to change that same belief system? I found this to be profound and (unfortunately) very accurate about how we are as a society.


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Re: Human nature, myopic or hypocrisy?
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2017, 08:54:58 AM »
A lot of people seem to have this public/private dichotomy... Lots of people at work get their project done on budget. They can forecast next years costs. I work with a guy that's pretty good at nailing his budget multiple years out. He does small safety/regulator projects for a fairly large production facility.  He can read proposed regulations and guess the budget costs really well for the next few years of compliance activities at his site.  Yet all of these guys and gals  are living paycheck to paycheck. The compliance project guy started a remodel at home that he doesn't know how much it will cost or how exactly they will pay for it.  Emotions take over most peoples personal finance and that poor bastard is selling all his company stock with no end in sight.

That or most peoples politics are 95% regurgitation the politics of people around them with no actual thought.


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Re: Human nature, myopic or hypocrisy?
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2017, 12:11:30 PM »
Yup - your father is engaged in projection - he projects his own flaws onto others and criticizes them, rather than actually addressing the exact same behavior in himself. We all do this to some extent, but some of us are much worse than others. Old men seem to have this habit particularly ingrained for some reason in my experience.

My father is the same way. Rails against the greedy bankers, materialism, consumer society, and in general how greedy and shallow others are. He mocks my mom for being very concerned about appearances. He talks all about how he would just love to live in a little shack with his old dog, and how he would be just as happy. Then he turns around and finances a new, flashy luxury vehicle because he "deserves" it (even though he already has a perfectly good car). He balks when questioned about why his cc bills are so high, or why he can't pay them off every month. He is constantly treating himself to extremely expensive hobbies and trips even as he howls about how the bankers stole a chunk of his retirement in the recession and screwed over people like him. The one time I told him about our aggressive savings strategy and frugal ways, he dismissed me and my husband as "unusual" and said we couldn't expect others to be similar. No joke. It's annoying as hell, but I try to just avoid topics where the hypocrisy is most likely to arise. If it does, I just agree or weakly argue. The truth is the human brain begins to deteriorate rapidly in old age and people revert to almost child like understandings of the world. If you think about it, when you are a child things are very simplistic, and kids are very egotistical and fail to really understand nuance, varying circumstances, and certainly don't understand their own incorrect attitudes or behaviors. Alot of old people end up the same way over time. In my experience, the "I'm right everyone else is wrong" seems to disproportionately affect older people and children, as opposed to young adults and middle aged adults. I chalk it up to an aging brain and try not to begrudge him his general ridiculousness.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2017, 12:16:46 PM by little_brown_dog »


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Re: Human nature, myopic or hypocrisy?
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2017, 02:18:22 PM »
At least 2 facotrs at play here
1) Do as I say, not as I do
2) to his point: the politicians are making decisions for future generations, not just for themselves. This is different from personal finance. An individual has to work, save, stop work, live on earnings, die. An individual is non-sustainable by nature. The individual could choose to leave an inheritance, or just plan to blow it all and die penniless. The country should be run as though there is no endpoint - sustainably.