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Both Sides of Rationalization

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Both sides of rationalization

Last month is the beginning of university life for the secondary schools' graduates. My friends and I had a gathering after the first day of school. One of my friends failed to get into the university that he wanted to enter before, then now he claimed that he does not want a place at it anymore due to its culture. However, we all know that the result of his public exam is the main reason. After the gathering, I read some articles about psychology and now I can attempt to clarify why this happened.

Rationalization means people using several unreasonable arguments to make something seems easier to accept (Burton, 2012).  When people are facing disappointments, they tend to disguise with excuses, which seem logical. There are normally two ways in rationalization. Belittling targets they unable to accomplish is called ‘sour grapes’; and convincing others by praising whatever they own is called ‘sweet lemons’ (Kay, Jimenez & Jost, 2002).

In the case mentioned above, my friend got an unsatisfactory result that makes him unable to get a place from the preferred university. In order to defend himself from failure, he chose to convince people and himself that the university is not good enough for him. Therefore, it may seem like the decision was made by him, not by the unsatisfactory result. He successfully disguised his failure by despising his initial goal. This is the instance of 'sour grapes'.

There is another case in daily life for 'sweet lemon'. I often discover a phenomenon in the relationship between men and women. I met a couple before, the boy was always cheating on his girlfriend and she knew it clearly. However, the girl did not break up with him. On the contrary, she told her friend that the boy was just looking for fun. He is the perfect boyfriend she has ever met. Although the boy is a cheater, she chose to cover up his dishonesty and convince herself that it is not a big deal. She just made things seem 'not too bad'.

The reason why people rationalize is that they have to make their actions compatible with their moral standards (Tsang, 2002). According to Bandura’s (1991, 1999), by the theory of moral disengagement, people internalize moral principles into self-penalize through social learning. When a person involves in a behaviour which offence the moral principle, he must disassociate

with the moral self-penalize to stay out of self-blame. Therefore, from such viewpoint, moral justification is caused by avoiding guilts.

Through this theory, I realize that there are many aspects of a topic. If we treat things as the way of 'sour grapes', we will never learn something further and break out of the current situation. As the case mentioned above, if my friend keeps judging the goals he could not achieve, he could never get a better result by challenging himself.

In contrast, being over-optimistic is not ideal as well. As being in an undesirable circumstance, we should put our effort into upgrading to another stage, instead of remaining unchanged. If the girl ends the current relationship and starts a new one with another more reliable boy, she could have changed her state and gain a content relationship, not the illusion imagined by herself.

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