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Normally, the process of writing a blog article takes quite a few days as the intent is to collect relevant references in order to write a decent piece. So, for a change, I wanted to write an article in a single-go about a topic which is obvious but rarely discussed in the public discourse.

The subject area for this article is Human Behavior studies. I find this area to be both dull and interesting. The perception of dullness is due to the fact that humans are fickle-minded creatures unlike other entities of nature which can be studied in order to arrive at fairly accurate generalizations that stand the test of time. At the same time, these studies are interesting as setting the frame of reference for these studies is a challenging task as the context keeps getting bigger and bigger as you look for causative factors for a particular behavior. It’s amazing how different sub disciplines of social studies such as psychology, sociology and philosophy form a tight bond between each other. It’s fair to say that interdisciplinary research is the norm and the future of theorizing.

We become more rational and logical as we grow old. Increasing levels of education and broader view of the world are other contributing factors that make us more logical. We tend to put a proper ‘purpose’ before the activity that we work on. Yet, yet, yet, there are some things that rarely change 🙂 In this article, I write about the five human behaviors and tendencies that we are adamant of changing.

 Changing Religion

A controversial subject to start with, isn’t it? 😉 One would find the influence of religion in almost all walks of life. Be it, the history behind BC/AD terminologies [1], the origin of western universities [2], the significance of holidays [3], reasoning behind superstitious beliefs and heck, even most of our names are based on some gods or historical characters that are part of myth. For classifying religions, I use Rajiv Malhotra’s classification scheme [4]. There are the history-centric religions on one side and the Dharmic religions on the other side (refer my earlier article to know more about these categories). It’s entirely accurate to say history-centric religions are purely belief-based with very little logic and scientific reasoning! On the other hand, Dharmic religions are experience-based where a person can reach the state of Samadhi or Nirvana by following certain reproducible steps. Yet, yet, yet, most people don’t move away from belief-based religions. There are some articles that observe the rise of Atheism in western countries [5]. I guess Atheism may be a much better option. But, is this Atheism christian-flavored and based on the western knowledge system? Even Atheism values and principles are built of top of some religion! I sincerely hope, we as human beings learn more about history of religions to understand how they were created, how they spread and how religions dictate our behaviors.

religion

Becoming a Vegetarian

Vegetarianism is a very justifiable movement. Before we get into the cause, one needs to understand the essential things that our body requires to survive. They are Carbohydrates, Proteins, Nucleic acids and Lipids [6]. Plants provide all these nutrients for us. The source of all energy is the Sun. Plants convert sunlight to chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis. Herbivores eat plants while there are carnivores that in turn eat herbivores. Carnivores don’t have a developed mind to tell that they can eat plants directly for its food. Humans don’t really need to eat animal meat to survive. At the same, we don’t really kill plants for food. Plants grow back naturally. This is not the case with animals. Most of us can live with the fact that animals are killed for our survival! Majority of current day humans are meat eaters. Is this justifiable? This is a behavior which is prominent among us, in spite of coming across so many messages that advocate vegetarianism.  Are meat eaters really logical? It’s time to introspect if you are a meat eater. Also, read this article if you want to know everything about vegetarianism.

vegeterianism

Observing without Judging

When we observe reality, we not only perceive it the way it appears to be but also use our own understanding and knowledge of reality. Therefore, a particular situation can be interpreted from varied perspectives depending on factors such as age, maturity, knowledge, and gender, to name of a few, of the onlooker. There is a human tendency where we not only observe something but we also judge it instantly. The judgment can be race/color related, appearance related, nationality related. For example, when a non-smoker looks at a person who is smoking, he/she instantly might think of him as a bad person. A dark-skinned person is instantly considered inferior if he is standing in a crowd of caucasians. A guy wearing a tuxedo in a meeting is instantly thought of as an aristocrat. I can go on giving many such examples. But, the point is that most of the problems that we face in our lives are related to our judgment of things. I guess when we reach a point where we just observe and don’t judge, that’s when there will be inner peace and equality in the world 🙂

never-judge

Bias towards Blood Relations and Close Friends

Justice, Equality and Transparency are solid principles that public and private organizations are supposed to follow. Yet, we see a particular community being preferred for jobs and poor people getting the raw end of a deal in law courts. Nepotism rules the roost in most organizations. It’s not a regional phenomenon, it’s worldwide! Friendship is good for us as no one wishes to live in solitude. Yet, the adage ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’ doesn’t mean justice for everyone concerned if something unfair is done to help a friend. Will you report a death if it was committed by your relative or will you stay silent? Will you prefer to appoint a cousin in your company instead of other bright candidates? Is it fair to cheat the system to help a friend for friendship’s sake? This bias towards blood relations and close friends is a behavior which is very, very difficult to avoid 😦

nepotism

Bias towards Native Language

This is bias which I noticed in social media. In social media websites, information is mostly shared in English which is a second language in Oriental countries. The advent of WWW and social media saw the rise of new problem called as Information Overload where there is too much information for one to handle. Also, since the cost of information generation is less, the veracity of information has rapidly reduced. It’s safe to say there is lot of misinformation in the web right now. Many unscientific and conspiracy sites post information in a convincing manner that many people don’t even care to check the genuineness of such information! This is an ongoing phenomenon in Facebook and Twitter. This behavior becomes intensified even more if the information is posted in the person’s native language. It may be because of the fact that the person’s native language is closer to him/her since it was acquired during the formative years of the person which makes it close to the heart. I am not sure whether studies have been conducted to prove this bias but this is something that can be tested out. For example, a true and factual information snippet in English and a fake information snippet written in Tamil in a apparently convincing manner, can be displayed to participants who hail from Tamil Nadu. The participants can be requested to select the snippet which they think is accurate and factual. My hypothesis is that most participants will select the snippets written in Tamil 🙂

you are biased

Acceptance plays a huge role in our lives. This is not an overstatement by any means. In my opinion, it is the single most important factor that affects our psychic hygiene. I will try to list down my clarifying thoughts in this blog post.

We want to live happily. All through our lives, we discover, observe and adapt to situations that aid in sustaining happiness. We try to escape to happiness during gloomy and morose moments. There is no denying these facts. Westernized philosophy of life propagates “Pursuit of Happiness” as the primal aim of life. Happiness, in totality arises out of personal/family/group/communal contentment.

so, Contentment->Happiness

Contentment arises due to these factors to 1.) Statutory Achievements, 2.) Healthy Physical/Mental Hygiene 3.) Pleasing Surroundings 4.) Meeting the Needs of the Five Senses 5.) Vicarious Enjoyment 6.) Fulfilment of Material Desires. One could go on an create a big list of factors that lead to contentment. But most factors are variations and instances of the  six mentioned factors. We, as humans are “Social Animals”. Social because as we belong to a community or a society or in simple terms – a group and we are quite dependant on each other – “We basically do things for others so that they can give something back to us”. Animals because we are all embodiments of the alternative definition of an Animal(adjective) – Marked by the appetites and passions of the body. There are few folks who are exceptions to this Social Animals observation. A discussion on their characteristics is a separate topic altogether.

An analysis of the six mentioned factors that lead to Contentment is portrayed through the diagram below

Acceptance operates at the ground level. Changes to its intensity propagates to the higher levels of contentment and happiness.  Lowering our acceptance threshold lowers our expectations from ourselves and others. This can mean simpler living and less tribulations but this can also mean no real inspiration for continuous progress so one has to be careful in dealing with it.

therefore can we say Acceptance->Contentment->Happiness ?

Please do write down your personal thoughts on this topic….