It is easier to accept credit than blame, and easier to attribute success to individual perseverance rather than any outside factors. Human nature, complex as it is, derives from the two basic, most fundamental needs that have been seen to affect humanity throughout its most recognized developmental stages. An individual will always seek to succeed in some manner, though rarely does anyone wish to take the blame when things go wrong. Rarely do humans step forward to claim the punishment that is due when something goes wrong, at least in the sense that they show any desire to take blame. Human beings are motivated by base desires first, and societal influences second.
What this means is that if a person does something wrong, whether they know it or not, they will seek to blame someone, or something else, rather than take the responsibility. While there are those that will step forward and accept blame, oftentimes there is some other motivation behind this, some other behavior that causes them to step forward when others will not. Rarely will anyone step up to claim responsibility for any wrongdoing without citing the interference of some environmental factor that caused the mistake or wrongdoing to take place.
The reason behind this is that no one wants to face what are called punishers, or disapproval in other words, and will likely turn to blaming environmental factors for their ill behavior or misdeeds. In a classic case defense lawyers will often call upon a defendant’s lack of proper upbringing, their abusive past, or other factors that might have contributed in the process of creating a behaviorally stunted individual that commits crimes rather than acting as a member of a law-abiding society. (Baum, 2004) This route offers no accountability and claims that any and all choice we possess is an illusion, that our behaviors are bound by our environment.
In contrast many people will take the opposite tactic when receiving credit, taking everything upon their own selves and denying that their environment had anything to do with their success. The success itself is a reinforce, a means by which to push individuals to excel and keep moving forward. While it is highly beneficial and does work, it is curious that very few people showcase such traits as humility or even the quiet sense of accomplishment that would rather deny the personal accolades and accept that their success had more to do with how they were trained, or how they were raised, or even how their personal environment aided in their accomplishment. Credit is sought, punishment is avoided, it is human nature, and it is a rather curious mix of behaviors that can be observed in each spectrum.
Like the method of avoiding punishment, taking credit for one’s accomplishments does not necessarily shy away from accountability, but rather takes full account for what has been done. Doing well in anything produces a rush to the human system, a release of endorphins that are quite enjoyable and even somewhat addicting. Success is much like anything, once someone attains it they will have a desire to do it again, and again, and again. The reinforcer for success is the credit gained, the status and notoriety given, and therefore the need to obtain it becomes stronger with each added accomplishment.
Punishment on the other hand is generally avoided as an unspoken rule, as few if any ever really desire to be punished for anything, especially something that is not their fault. “The devil made me do it” excuse is quite popular, as are many others when seeking to lay the blame for a misdeed upon something or someone else. (Baum, 2014) Human nature demands that we shy away from anything that will harm us, be it physical, emotional, or psychological. It is a defense mechanism of the human mind that causes such behaviors to occur, and one that is quite common.
To avoid punishment we deny any true responsibility, and shift the blame to another party, or to the environment we come from or live in, to lessen the blow when it comes. In this manner human beings draw heavily upon extenuating circumstances, or environmental factors, in order to explain away what should by all rights be assumed to be their fault. When those who do come forward to accept blame do not draw upon the excuse of environmental factors, there is likely another reason why they will bother to deal with the punishment, behaviors that were instilled in childhood or a decided lack of fear for any punishment at all. These cases are rare, as human beings, like any other animal, seek to avoid punishment in all its forms and thereby do anything to “get out of it”.
If human choice is an illusion, then every last human being is a product of their behavior, and are driven more by their more basic desires to acquire what they deem as “good” and avoid what they consider “bad”. There is a great deal of truth in this as it is seen to be biologically ingrained into our minds that whatever falls into either category is then subjected to a behavioral bias that is very difficult, even impossible in some cases, to eradicate.
Approval is a great reinforcer as it allows an individual to realize and understand that they have done something right, and perhaps even done it better than anyone else. In this vein the individual will wish to believe that did something great all on their own, without need of any outside source. Yet when disapproval, the punisher, is introduced as a reaction to an act deemed as wrong or bad people will generally seek to find anyone, anything at all to take the credit, to lessen the blow upon their own person. Human beings are curious in that while we do have a defined set of morals and ethics, we still tend to resort to our more base natures in times of great success and times of great distress.
Baum, William M. (2004). Understanding Behaviorism: Behavior, Culture, and Evolution.