I Read Playboy for the articles: Justifying and Rationalizing Questionable Preferences
Executive Summary (via HBS)
We want others to find us good, fair, responsible and logical; and we place even more importance on thinking of ourselves this way. Therefore, when people behave in ways that might appear selfish, prejudiced, or perverted, they tend to engage a host of strategies designed to justify questionable behavior with rational excuses: “I hired my son because he’s more qualified.” “I promoted Ashley because she does a better job than Aisha.” Or, “I read Playboy for the articles.” In this chapter from a forthcoming book, HBS doctoral student Zoë Chance and professor Michael I. Norton describe various means of coping with one’s own questionable behavior: through preemptive actions and concurrent strategies for re-framing uncomfortable situations, forgoing decisions, and forgetting those decisions altogether. Because people do not want to be perceived as (or feel) unethical or immoral, they make excuses for their shameful behavior—even to themselves. People cope with their own questionable actions in a number of ways, from forgoing certain experiences to rationalizing, justifying, and forgetting—a remarkable range of strategies allowing them to maintain a clear conscience even under dubious circumstances.