THE BLOG
10/25/2006 04:05 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What's Inside Bush's Brain: Ego

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Well, thanks for re-joining us here on earth. Or maybe not: Bush Offers Sobering Assessment of War but "though acknowledging there were serious problems in Iraq, Mr. Bush ceded no ground on his handling of the war." Now, I'm not a hairsplitter but I'd say that is somewhat inconsistent. Bush's stay-the-course stubbornness seems to finally reduce his whole visionary leader routine to just shtick. It is counter-productive to his own supposed goals of fighting the terrorists, nurturing the flower of democracy in the middle east, etc. If those beady eyes were actually fixed on some glorious horizon, he'd say, "we made a mistake here, and we're going to do everything we can to fix it." Like Dr. Phil says: "If you find yourself in a hole, stop diggin'!" Instead, Bush swaggers along because he can't admit any error whatsoever. It not Jesus politics; it's petty, Washington politics. And a total personality failure. I always thought Bush seemed like a neophyte trader chasing a bad stock buy to zero, or a guy sitting at a blackjack table at 4am, with his house on the line, still talking about his foolproof system for winning at cards. Turns out that's exactly what it is:

Ego traps us in costly, losing battles, study finds

A gambler plunges deeper into debt when crushing losses should scream to him to quit. A banker keeps lending to someone who clearly won't pay back. A leader pours troops and money into a war that has become a quagmire. These scenarios have something in common: in each, someone is entangled in a costly, protracted and losing venture. It happens quite often.

Now, researchers say they may have confirmed a key reason why people fall into what the scientists call "costly entrapment in losing endeavors."

Their finding, based on a study of monetary choices, might be unsurprising to many observers of human nature: it comes down to ego.

Threatened egotism, in particular, "makes people more prone to become entrapped in losing endeavors," two psychologists wrote in the study, published in the July issue of the research journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Egotism, they wrote, is "the motivation to maintain and enhance favorable views of self." Admitting an unwise decision threatens such views, they added. To avoid that, people slog ahead with failed courses of action despite mounting losses.

Perhaps a comfort to Bush, another bit of research suggests a method to madness:

Studies find logic lurking in madness

Many thinkers have suspected there is a fine line between logic and madness. In some situations--limited ones--they have found that schizophrenics have a reasoning advantage over normal people, stemming from their very lack of what we typically call common sense.

Schizophrenia, a long-term mental disorder involving delusions and a derailed sense of reality, disrupts people's ability to see the "context" of events, a key part of common sense, said Emmanuel Mellet, one of the researchers.

Turns out that on certain types of problem solving activities, schizophrenics did four times better than sane people.

"We suggest that, thanks to their difficulty in processing contextual information, the schizophrenic patients ignored the elements that misled healthy participants," the scientists wrote.

Upside for Bush: maybe insanity is reality. Downside: it says a lot when replacing your cabinet with schizophrenics would be a marked improvement.