Think the earth is flat? Why not build a giant bottle rocket and launch yourself into space to prove it?
A new study from the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary may have determined the reason for humanity’s impulse control problem.
Researchers set out to discover the criteria people use when determining that a particular behavior is, well, stupid, Live Science reports. It turns out it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist: Judging whether something is stupid “comes instantaneously,” researcher Aczél Balázs says. “If one person calls something stupid, there’s a high likelihood others will do the same thing.” In fact, the rate of agreement was 90%. Researchers found that behaviors deemed stupid stem from three primary conditions:
Overconfidence: You thought you could, but you couldn’t.
Lack of control: You knew you shouldn’t, but you did.
Absent-mindedness: You weren’t paying attention.
In the study, researchers gathered online anecdotes describing behaviours that had been called stupid. They asked 154 students to read them and determine if they were, indeed, stupid. Then, the students chose reasons why a behaviour was stupid from a list. Some interesting takeaways:
People with high intelligence aren’t necessarily immune to doing stupid things. A determination of stupidity is based on the observer’s expectations for a person’s behaviour; the person engaged in stupid behaviour may have different expectations. Understanding the causes of stupid behaviour may help people keep others from engaging in it—rather than saying, “You’re being stupid,” one can say “You’re being overconfident.”
We not only recognize stupidity when we see it, we love to watch other people doing something stupid as a source of amusement.
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