What is Rationalization?

In psychology, rationalization refers to our attempt to logically justify something that is illogical or unacceptable, by resorting to some lame, but seemingly plausible reason but not an excuse. Like several other defense mechanisms, even rationalization works at the unconscious level to help us ward off unpleasant feelings associated with cognitive dissonance, i.e., situation arising from conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behavior.

People resort to rationalization either when they know that they have done something that they shouldn’t have done, when they can’t do something that they want to do, or when they want to convince themselves that things are not so bad after all. So they try to come up with lame reasons or excuses to justify themselves. It’s precisely for this reason that rationalization is also known as ‘making excuses’.