Friday, February 16, 2007

The Case For Sinful Nature

Here's a nice little read on that rebellious little something inside all of us:

Working with Duke Ph.D. student Amy Dalton, [Tanya] Chartrand and [Gavan] Fitzsimons have demonstrated that some people will act in ways that are not to their own benefit simply because they wish to avoid doing what other people want them to.

Psychologists call this reactance: a person's tendency to resist social influences that they perceive as threats to their autonomy.

This article was couched under the question "why do men ignore nagging wives?" and describes a series of experiments where folks were asked to perform an anagram task either requested by somebody they perceived as controlling and wanting them to work hard or by a person perceived as somebody who wanted them to have fun. The testing showed that those who performed the task at the request of the "fun" person fared better than those who did the task under the request of the "controlling" person.

The article humorously concludes with:

Chartrand believes her husband "should now be better equipped to suppress his reactant tendencies." Fitzsimons, however, believes the results "suggest that reactance to significant others is so automatic that I can't possibly be expected to control it if I don't even know it's happening."

Translation: "well, my husband now realizes he's being a butt and will put a lid on his temper when I nag him about mowing the yard." "Uh, no honey, what I've really learned here is I can't help to flip out on you when you nag me."

My question is -- where does that automagic "reactance" come from? It's kind of like the same thing you see in a two year old who refuses to do what he's told. Where does rebellion come from? "Reactance" seems like a nice, psychology word to describe something that's baked into all of us from the start.

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