From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Irrationality is talking or acting without regard of rationality. Usually pejorative, the term is used to describe thinking and actions which are, or appear to be, less useful or logical than the rational alternatives. There is a clear tendency to view our own thoughts, words, and actions as rational and to see those who disagree as irrational.
Types of behavior which are often described as irrational include:
- fads and fashions
- crowd behavior
- offense or anger at a situation that has not yet occurred
- unrealistic expectations
- falling victim to confidence tricks
- belief in the supernatural without evidence
- stock-market bubbles
- irrationality caused by mental illness, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, and paranoia.
These more contemporary 'normative' conceptions of what constitutes a manifestation of irrationality prove difficult to empirically demonstrate because it is not clear by whose standards we are to judge rational or irrational behaviour.
absurdism - bohemia - counter-enlightenment - Decadent movement - Dionysian - dream - fantastic - fascism - id - instinct - irrealis - romantic love - mental illness - nonsense - panic - phobia as irrational fears - Romanticism - Symbolist cultural movement - Postmodernism - unconscious
- The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism (2004) - Richard Wolin
- The Destruction of Reason (1952) - Georg Lukacs
Why does irrational behavior occur?
The study of irrational behavior is of interest in fields such as psychology, cognitive science, economics, game theory, and evolutionary psychology, as well as of practical interest to the practitioners of advertising and propaganda.
Theories of irrational behavior include:
- people's actual interests differ from what they believe to be their interests.
- mechanisms that have evolved to give optimal behavior in normal conditions lead to irrational behavior in abnormal conditions.
- In situations outside of one's ordinary circumstances, one may experience intense levels of fear, or may regress to a Fight or flight mentality.
- people fail to realize the irrationality of their actions and believe they are acting perfectly rational, possibly due to flaws in their reasoning.
- apparently irrational decisions are actually optimal, but made unconsciously on the basis of "hidden" interests that are not known to the conscious mind
- an inability to comprehend the social consequences of one's own actions, possibly due in part to a lack of empathy.
- Some people find themselves in this condition by living "double" lives. They try to put on one "mask" for one group of people and another for a different group of people. Many will become confused as to which they really are or which they wish to become.
Factors which affect rational behavior include:
- stress, which in turn may be emotional or physical
- the introduction of a new or unique situation
Irrationalist is a wide term. It may be applied to mean one without rationality, for their beliefs or ideas. Or, more precisely, it may mean someone who rejects some aspect of rationalism, variously defined. For example religious faith may be seen as, in part, a rejection of complete rationalism about the world; this would be contested by some religious thinkers, in that the rational is a debatable term. On the other hand, it might be considered irrationalist to buy a lottery ticket, on the basis that the expected value is negative.
Much subject matter in literature can be seen as an expression of human longing for the irrational. In Romanticism irrationality was valued over the sterile, calculating and emotionless philosophy brought about by the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.
The Dadaists and Surrealists later used irrationality as a basis for their art. The disregard of reason and preference for dream states in Surrealism was an exaltation of the irrational and the rejection of logic.
Mythology nearly always incorporates elements of fantasy and the supernatural; however myths are largely accepted by the societies that create them, and only come to be seen as irrational through the spyglass of time and by other cultures. But though mythology serves as a way to rationalize the universe in symbolic and often anthropomorphic ways, a pre-rational and irrational way of thinking can be seen as tacitly valued in mythology's supremacy of the imagination, where rationality as a philosophical method has not been developed.
On the other side the irrational is often depicted from a rational point of view in all types of literature, provoking amusement, contempt, disgust, hatred, awe, and many other reactions.
- Amygdala hijack
- Behavioral economics
- Bounded rationality
- Cognitive bias
- Irrationalism and Aestheticism
- Logical fallacy
- Optimism bias
- Rationality and power
- Self-serving bias