Monday, January 22, 2007

Why People Do What They Do

For centuries, scholars, theologians, philosophers and psychologists, to name a few, have been trying to answer the question, “Why do people do that they do?” Throughout my many years of university-based scholarship as well as my work as a licensed psychologist, the two things I knew for sure were that (1) the importance of asking this question could never be underestimated, and (2) very few people ever agree on the answer.

Albeit a somewhat simplistically appearing approach, I have argued that there are four categories of starting points of a person’s answer to the question. To wit, one’s answer can be:

1. Cognitively driven – e.g., “I think I am doing what I am doing because it is a good idea;”

2. Emotively driven – e.g., “I am doing it because it feels good;”

3. Behaviorally driven – e.g., “It’s what I learned to do” (i.e., via positive and negative reinforcement); and,

4. His or Her Individual’s Unique Combination of the above three.

Interestingly, this question many times is directly and/or indirectly involved in novels. For example, in my latest romance novel, Fear of Feeling Loved, throughout the story Marcia ponders why she is doing what she is doing with Jack (in spite of the risks and dangers); she struggles, nonetheless, with her emotions saying one thing and her head telling her something else. I confidently can say that most adults struggle with such issues on a daily basis.

I’m curious – why do you do what you do?



Cole Reising said...

I'm definitely in the 'all apply to me' group. Which one will come out on top is up for grabs each situation, each day and so forth. Everything having an impact on this from how much sleep I got to whether I exercised or not. :)


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Nicole,
Thanks for sharing your personal experience with this issue. And you certainly raise an excellent point -- while I agree with you that 99% of us tend to be in the "all apply to me" category, each particular issue and situation produces (or calls for) a different combination of the first three (cognitive, emotional and behavioral).
Spot on (as they say across the pond)!

Bailey Stewart said...

Oh Lord, you're going to make me think. LOL

I find that personally, I do 1 and 2 based upon 3. I do what I think is right, feels good - totally based upon what I've learned, or past experiences. Sort of a nature vs. nurture type of thinking - you do what comes naturally, or what you were taught. What I end up doing, for the most part, also depends upon my mood - whether I'm depressed or in a good place.

Interesting question, and insightful blog. Thanks for inviting me.

Now my head hurts. *gg*

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Bailey,

Thanks for stopping by and offering an insightful Comment. Why we do what we do is sometimes situational (as Cole had suggested) yet also influenced by our prevailing "mood" and "thinking" surrounding the time we are doing what we're doing (as you are suggesting). I think you would agree, nonetheless, that it is important to occasionally give serious consideration as to why we do what we do (even if it includes a headache). I have seen many people get into trouble and/or live troublesome lives because they don't think about why they do what they do.

Again, thanks Bailey. And as we say in the South... "Ya'll come back and see us, ya'hear!"


DH said...

Hmmm...I have tried to take care of the emotions with the cognitive in the past (most of my life, actually). My best thinking was... not so good. Now, I follow my heart. Situationally, the end result can be good, bad, or indifferent. As long as I follow my heart, I have no regrets.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello DH,
Thanks for sharing your experience. And you implicitly make an excellent point -- all that really matters is what works best for you. There's no "one formula" for everyone. Another consideration you surface is that as we journey through life, even our own formula changes. So, if it works for you, DH, "follow your heart."
Thanks again,

Unknown said...

What an interesting topic to bring up. I tend to agree with dh, it is about knowing what you truly want, going after it, and moving from there. Some things will work out, and some won't, but never having to wonder, "If only I had done that....?", is the best feeling of all.

After all, you can always do it and change your mind, but you can never go back in time and do the things you always thought about doing.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Excellent point! And your Comment gave me pause to remember when my three now adult children were young -- their mom and I seized every opportunity to spend time with them while they were children. I suppose I still could wrestle with my son on the living room floor like I did when he was six, but now he's 6'5" and weighs 245 lbs... not only a bad idea but too late. Thanks for the insightful Comment.
Carpe diem!

Anonymous said...

Just for the record - I only weigh 235 lbs; not 245 lbs! I wrote this comment because I thought it was a good idea, felt good, and I have learned to make sure that things are written accurately about me :>

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Scott,
Sorry for the inaccuracy, and thanks for the correction.
P.S. The scary part is that I know where you got that from.

Unknown said...

How funny to see "dr. bill" and "dr. bill's son". Sounds like you two are quite the team.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Yes, we are! I am very fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my son, Scott. And among many other ways, I am fortunate in two other ways as well: (1) I have a likewise wonderful relationship with his two sisters, Karen and Babara; and (2) I appreciate it!
One does not have to look far to appreciate ones fortunes.