Why do people do the things they do?


By Bakary Touray

I had an English teacher at high school who always tells us, human beings are thinking beings. Meaning human beings are logical beings, and that they have logical reasons to their actions. Dale Carnagie (author of how to win friends and influence people) wrote, “When dealing with people let us remember that we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity”.

Now let’s ask what motivated or inspired us to do the things we do Cognitive psychologists noted that our behavior is influenced by our values, our perceptions of our situations, and by choice. From the above point of view, we could deduce that, one of the reasons why people do the things they do is because of the values that govern them, irrespective of whether they seem logical to the next party.



Also we could deduce from the above point that, it’s because of the way they interpret the situations around them, because different people can have different interpretations to a similar situation, and that will cause them to act differently.

Many seasons are given by different people as to the reasons people do the things they do. Two reasons became too powerful to me during my research and very fascinating. These are emotional drivers and logical drivers.

Think about this, why do people act in so many different ways over a single and the same situation? Like I said, some said it’s due to emotional drivers, like Dale Carnagie puts it in the first paragraph, that human beings are emotional beings. Others claimed it’s due to logical reasons.
Interestingly enough, the people in favour of emotional drivers raised this question,“ why do we find some people including some medical doctors smoking and drinking alcohol, when logically it’s clear that smoking and drinking are harmful to their health”?

Anthony Robbins, a motivational speaker says, “If information was all that was required for people to make decisions and act, then surely we could Google almost anything we wanted to do, then go and do it! Surely than if people have all the information they required, telling them how to achieve their goals, why than do they not act? The answer as he puts it, is, because they need an emotional driver to kick start them to make decisions.


What then is emotion?
Wikipedia has the following descriptions: “Emotions are what people feel. In terms of evolution they are very ancient, and can be seen in all mammals. They are caused by a complex mixture of hormones and the unconscious mind. Only with great difficulty can we control our emotions by conscious effort. They cause mammals to change their behaviors according to their situations. In our case emotions sometimes run against our attempt to live our lives in a logical way”. Examples of emotions are; affection, anger, anxiety, boredom, disgust, excitement, fear, frustration, gratitude, love, sadness etc.

We have established that emotion is the main driver which makes people do the things they do. But! It appears this is the case only when they are acting in their person al capacity with regard to things that affect them personally. When it comes to someone making a decision on behalf of someone else, the situation is reversed. Then logical factors become more influential and outweigh the emotional drivers.


Let’s observe this example
In case you have a friend who is in a very unhealthy relation (let’s assume its marriage). Knowing their partner as either abusive, dishonest, cheating on them or just plainly a wrong match. So you try to talk to your friend about this unhealthy relationship in a gentle and polite manner as possible. You ask yourself over and over that your friend understands the situation, and why he/she is still in it dying? Then sometime later your friend decided to split up with that person, and when you two met he/she tells you, “you know – I know it was wrong all along, I just love him/her, that’s why I stayed”. What will you say?

In the above example, you evaluated your friend’s condition from an outsider’s point of view. You are not directly and personally involved. Therefore, it’s easier for you to think and act more logically. Of course you can see the relationship wrong, going nowhere, so easier for you to think logically why it needs to end. But the situation is different for your friend. He/she is directly involved in a very personal way in the relationship. For him/her emotional drivers far outweigh logical drivers. The emotional drivers of love, affection, pride and fear (of ending the relationship and being single and lonely) are the main factors affecting his/her decision making or action.

In conclusion, from my research, I will say that the reason why people do the things they do is mainly influenced by emotional drivers. This is so when circumstances directly affect us. Logical drivers play a secondary role.
But when we look at outside our own personal situation, we apply more weight to logical drivers and less weight to emotional drivers.
By understanding what emotional drivers affect our lives and others, we can begin to understand why people do the things they do.