Self righteous people are chemically different than others

It’s hard not to notice the amount of lazy, terrible and downright rude drivers...

It’s hard not to notice the amount of lazy, terrible and downright rude drivers merrily making their way along the roads, and that particular personal pet peeve is (somewhat) fresh in my mind after witnessing an event so pathetic I couldn’t help but find it amusing, at a four-way stop in Ponoka.

I was travelling along the 2A highway through town behind a pickup truck when another vehicle pulled out of the 7-Eleven lot, completely cutting the truck off. The new and very ignorant driver then made a complete stop at the four-way (thankfully) before making one of the slowest left-hand turns through an intersection I’ve ever seen. All the while he was waving his hand out the window, giving the poor truck driver the unwarranted middle finger.

Watching all of this transpire I couldn’t help but shake my head and that little voice inside me piped up, “Buddy, there’s no way you can think this is anything but your fault.” But apparently he did.

That blatant act of ignorance weighed on me all that weekend, forming another question in my mind; is there something chemically different about self righteous people or are they just like the rest of us only much more annoying? And by just like the rest of us I mean self-appointed ‘better’.

Paul King, a computational neuroscientist and endorsed writer for Cognitive Neuroscience, says for some people it’s possible self righteousness can have the same effects on the human mind as a drug addiction.

People generally follow patterns of learned behaviour, mediated by chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, says King.

Along that same line of thinking, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, says a person’s brain become addicted when the drug increases the levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter which modulates the brain’s ability to perceive reward reinforcement.

When dopamine levels increase the brain receives a feeling of pleasure, further reinforcing the behaviour that led to that feeling.

King believes self righteous people do have a lot going for them in terms of behaviour leading to those rewarding feelings. After all, who doesn’t want to feel like the king of the world (or queen), lording your superior opinion over everybody else?

So yes, through researching this piece I was able to discover self righteous people may be chemically different than the rest of us more relaxed, more understanding people but that doesn’t make them any less annoying or easier to be around.

The same sympathy afforded to those with other types of addictions should not be given to someone addicted to themselves.

Amelia Naismith is the new reporter for the Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.