God created man as the most intelligent animal on this earth. He incorporated in him emotions, cognition, feelings and the ability to reason. We all are supposed to behave in a rational way, i.e., act according to logic and reason required in a situation. But does that really happen? Do we behave rationally? Certainly not. There are a lot of people who behave irrationally, causing problems to themselves as well as to others. One cannot define the exact cause behind irrational behavior. We only know that it is a manner of behavior that is not based on logic and reasoning. It depends on various factors out of which psychological imbalance could be a major one.
I would like to give you, an example of irrational behavior which will help you understand the idea a bit better. If a person has heard about someone suffering from some disease, he/she will start thinking that he/she may suffer from the same disease sometime in life or may start feeling as if he/she is experiencing the symptoms of that disease. This is irrational and illogical behavior. I don't feel that this behavior is always intentional. Also, people do not realize that the views they have about certain things are irrational.
Factors Responsible for Irrational Behavior
Ignorance can be a major cause of irrational behavior in people. People can be totally unaware about a situation, yet form their own views and pass judgments. This factor contributes to having irrational thoughts about politics. Every individual has different information on the same issue, which is insufficient to actually solve the issue. Lack of information or even inadequate information can be called ignorance because human beings often tend to jump to conclusions even with the slightest bit of information. Neither are they witnesses to the actual situation nor are they involved in it. They believe in gossip and form conclusions based on rumors.
Emotions are another factor that contribute to irrationality. These people take offense or get angry before the actual situation occurs. They become anxious and express exaggerated emotions such as crying hysterically. They harbor unrealistic expectations, like expecting everyone to like them and if someone does not, it makes them feel angry and neglected. People suffering from mental illness usually show such signs of irrational behavior.
Phobias about anything can amount to irrational behavior. Let us consider a person who is scared of insects. Even if he/she sees a small creature like a fly, the person starts screaming and panicking. Even though he/she knows it is just a fly and it cannot cause any harm, he/she cannot think logically due to fear. There are other phobias like fear of water, heights and even death.
Stress can also lead to irrational behavior. In fact, these days, stress is the only thing that causes physical as well as mental problems. Stress creates in you, feeling of anger, irritation and frustration. For instance, when you spend a stressful day in the office, it makes you anxious. You start releasing your frustration or stress by screaming at your family members for small reasons like a badly prepared meal. On other days, you eat the same meal with no problems, but that day everything feels wrong.
Blind Beliefs can lead a person straight towards irrational behavior. A person will start to live entirely on the lines that are drawn by others and does not have his/her own point of view. He/she becomes extra conscious about society and its reactions to his/her behavior. For example, an individual can base all his actions considering the opinions of others. So if an act is accepted by some member of the society, then he has done something good. Else he loses hope and feels that he is incapable of doing anything good. Self-esteem fluctuates in this manner, in irrational people. They are saddened by negative comments and immediately feel better when someone tries to convince them that it is not the way to think, everything will be fine and so on. This can be called pampering.
When it comes to 'collective irrationality', racism is one belief that has survived for long in every part of the world. Today, it is not openly followed but there are communities that believe in racism and maintain their unrealistic thoughts. The creator has not made the difference between anyone, then who are we to raise such illogical and inhuman issues? Racism negates two aspects of human life and those are mind and morality. The superiority or inferiority of a race is not determined by the past achievements of its members.
Irrationality, to a great extent, is found in religion. Ask yourself why you follow certain religious customs today that were followed by your ancestors? I do not want to hurt anyone's religious sentiments but is there any concrete reason why you do it? I feel people are trapped in the ancient mindset. Following religious customs has become a habit, which cannot be done away with.
Changing this behavior is not an easy job because it is internalized. You have to detect it carefully and deal with it in the correct way. Detection can be done by finding and analyzing thoughts about yourself. You tend to believe that you should do this, must get that, have to be successful and so on. Once you discover the source of your irrationality, start contemplating and judge its logic. It will help you change your way of thinking. A common question that arises then is, how to deal with irrational people? Try to observe their underlying irrational behavior, be patient, and talk to them accordingly.