Understanding Egocentric Thinking
Egocentric thinking emerges from our innate human tendency to see the world from a narrow self-serving perspective. We naturally think of the world in terms of how it can serve us. Our instinct is to continually operate within the world, to manipulate situations and people, in accordance with our selfish interests.
At the same time, we naturally assume that our thinking is rational. No matter how irrational or destructive our thinking is, when we are operating from an egocentric perspective, we see our thinking as reasonable. Our thinking seems to us to be right, true, good, and justifiable. Our egocentric nature, therefore, creates perhaps the most formidable barrier to critical thinking.
We inherit from our childhood the sense that we have basically figured out the truth about the world. We naturally believe in our sense of who and what we are. Therefore, if we behave or think irrationally, we are, in a sense, victims of the beliefs and thought processes we have developed through life (because egocentric thinking is commanding us).
As we age, our rational capacities develop to some extent. We come to think more reasonably in some areas of our lives. This can come from explicit instruction or experience. If we are in an environment that models reasonable behavior, we become more reasonable. Yet it is hard to imagine making significant inroads into egocentric thinking unless we become explicitly aware of it and learn how to undermine or short-circuit it in some way. The human mind can think irrationally in too many ways while masking itself within a facade of reasonability.
The mere appearance of rationality, of course, is not equivalent to its genuine presence. And, unfortunately, much rational adult behavior is at root, egocentric or sociocentric. This stems, in part, from the fact that people generally do not have a clear understanding of how the human mind functions. Most important, they fail to realize that thinking, if left to itself, is inherently flawed with prejudices, half-truths, biases, vagueness, arrogance, and the like