because we feel like it

Sometimes we just “feel” like doing something. By my reading of recent neuroscience, these situations may arise because somewhere in our brain there are processes that have determined that this “something” is optimal and the signals from these processes have overwhelmed signals from others that may have come to a contrary conclusion.

Our thoughts and actions are the result of numerous parallel processes. They are sometimes combined in an apparently sensible way giving us the illusion of an integrated self (link). But sometimes they do not come together in a sensible way and so we cannot immediately intuit a reason. We just feel like it.

The manner in which external stimuli and those parallel processes can mix is vast. So our urges to do things may take into account a vast number of dimensions of which we are barely familiar. So long as we let ourselves occasionally take actions because we “feel like it,” these processes reveal a preference ordering that we cannot access intentionally. In doing so we discover features of our inaccessible inner preference ordering. One implication is that we can misjudge ourselves just as much as we can misjudge others (link).

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2 thoughts on “because we feel like it

  1. John Myles White

    I like your general point a lot, but I’m not sure we access an “inner preference ordering.” We might just access an alternative source of evaluations, but not necessarily one that’s consistent in an economic sense. Gneezy et al’s “Uncertainty Effect” presents a nice example of experimental manipulations that access what are clearly inner evaluative processes, but not necessarily proper preferences.

  2. Cyrus Post author

    Thanks for the comment, John. Such may be the case and you are in a good position to judge. It would be nice if the kind of consistency that I am assuming is indeed there, lying hidden. Then, we could justify acting on urges as self discovery. But maybe that kind of justification really isn’t warranted.

    A link to an ungated version of the study that John mentions is here: PDF.

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