I enjoy reading research from behavioral economists, to learn more about why I and those around me do the things that we do -- what are our natural tendencies, inclinations, etc. I've been casually following the field for the past decade or so. Initially its findings were sort of met with uproar by some, particularly from those who believe in a stronger form of free will than the evidence would suggest. When confronted with how easy it was to fool the average person or get them to behave with cruelty, there was disbelief and offense. I loved reading about these studies because they confirmed some of my suspicions about human nature and gave me insight into other areas of human behavior that I had not previously considered.
Now I read these studies more as a how-to for "life hacking," improving the quality of my life and making it easier on myself to think and behave the way that I think is optimal given my circumstances. That's why I liked this passage from the introduction of Dan Ariely's latest book, via Brain Pickings:
In addition to exploring the forces that shape dishonesty, one of the main practical benefits of the behavioral economics approach is that it shows us the internal and environmental influences on our behavior. Once we more clearly understand the forces that really drive us, we discover that we are not helpless in the face of our human follies (dishonesty included), that we can restructure our environment, and that by doing so we can achieve better behaviors and outcomes.
I think this is important for everyone, but perhaps particularly the personality disordered. Writing the blog and doing the research that I have done in the area of sociopathy has been largely targeted to do just this -- undertand the internal and environmental influences on my behavior so that I can restructure what I can for better outcomes.
I've learned a lot about myself over the years and I continue to learn about myself. Even on this recent trip, one of my traveling companions accused me of objectifying her -- treating her as just another thing to be managed. I would manage her the same way I would manage transfers between hotels and airports even though she is professedly one of my favorite people. I realized I have defaulted into this mode with everyone for the past couple of months, had gradually slipped into it without realizing. Of course I wish that she hadn't told me through a tearful and sudden outburst while I was in the middle of troubleshooting some technical problem, but still I was glad that she was able to pinpoint what exactly about my behavior was upsetting her. It took a while to remember why and how to admire/love her, but I did so by trying to remember past happy times, smelling her clothes, sitting unnecessarily close to her, etc. Creepy? I think so too, but it worked. The more I learn about myself, the more empowered I feel.