For the video game developer, see Irrational Games.

Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking or acting without inclusion of rationality. The term is used, usually pejoratively, to describe thinking and actions that are, or appear to be, less useful or illogical than other more rational alternatives.

Irrational behaviors of individuals include taking offense or becoming angry about a situation that has not yet occurred, expressing emotions exaggeratedly (such as crying hysterically), maintaining unrealistic expectations, engaging in irresponsible conduct such as problem intoxication, disorganization, or extravagance, and falling victim to confidence tricks. People with a mental illness like schizophrenia may exhibit irrational paranoia.

These more contemporary 'normative' conceptions of what constitutes a manifestation of irrationality are difficult to demonstrate empirically because it is not clear by whose standards we are to judge the behavior rational or irrational.

Why does Irrational behavior occur? Edit

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
  • intoxication
  • peers who convey irrational thoughts as necessary idiosyncrasy for social acceptance


Intentional Irrationality Edit

Irrational is not always viewed as a negative. The Dada and Surrealist art movements, for example, embraced irrationality as a means to "reject reason and logic". Andre Breton, for example, argued for a rejection of pure logic and reason which are seen as responsible for many contemporary social problems [1].

In science fiction literature, the progress of pure rationality is viewed as a quality which may lead civilization ultimately toward a scientific future dependent on technology. Irrationality in this case, is a positive factor which helps to balance excessive reason.

In psychology, excessive rationality without creativity may be viewed as a form of self-control and protection. Certain problems, such as death and loss, may have no rational solution when they are being experienced. We may seek logical explanations for such events, when in fact the proper emotional response is grief. Irrationality is thus a means of freeing the mind toward purely imaginative solutions, to break out of historic patterns of dependence into new patterns that allow one to move on.


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.

Irrational thought was seen in Europe as part of the reaction against Continental rationalism. For example Hamann is sometimes classified as an irrationalist.

Irrationality and literature Edit

Irrational behaviour has always been a notable target to satirical writers and philosophers.

Irrationality and psychotherapy Edit

The term irrational is often used in psychotherapy and the concept of irrationality is especially known in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy originated and developed by American psychologist Albert Ellis. In this approach, the term irrational is used in a slightly different way than in general. Here irrationality is defined as the tendency and leaning that humans have to act, emote and think in ways that are inflexible, unrealistic, absolutist and most importantly self- and social-defeating and destructive[1].

See also Edit


References Edit

  1. Ellis, Albert (2001). Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Promotheus Books.

External links Edit

pl:Irracjonalność fi:Irrationaalisuus

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