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Our motivation to feel good trumps our desire to feel human

21 March 2017

A new critique in The Journal of Social Psychology suggests that, when it comes to undesirable human traits, we see ourselves as pretty similar to other people.

Most of us have a sense of what it means to be human. Research shows that we agree with each other that traits like friendly, jealous or impatient are more “human” than others like unemotional or selfless.

What’s more, we like to see ourselves as human: we care more about human traits and claim to possess them more than other people.

In other words, we “self-humanise”, laying claim to the good and the bad as long as they emphasise our own humanity.

But this research on self-humanising presents a conundrum. A different, abundant line of evidence shows that humans bitterly protect a highly positive self-image, supported by cognitive biases that attribute our own failings to circumstances and other people’s to their deficiencies.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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