Difference Between Intellectualization and Rationalization

Key Difference – Intellectualization vs Rationalization
 

Intellectualization and rationalization refer to two defense mechanisms between which a key difference can be discerned. Before gaining an understanding of these two defense mechanisms, let us first comprehend what defense mechanisms are. Defense mechanisms are our ways of dealing with negative emotions unconsciously in order to reduce the level of anxiety that we feel. For this, we can use a variety of defense mechanisms with which we can even deny the very reality before us. Intellectualization and rationalization are two examples for defense mechanisms. Intellectualization is a defense mechanism where the individual seeks the assistance of intellectual components in order to relieve the anxiety. Rationalization, on the other hand, is where the individual constructs a logical justification in order to reduce the anxiety. As you can see, the key difference between the two is that while in intellectualization the individual draws on intellectual components, in rationalization the individual draws on logical components. Through this article let us attempt to gain a clearer understanding of intellectualization and rationalization with some examples.

What is Intellectualization?

Intellectualization is a defense mechanism where the individual seeks the assistance of intellectual components in order to relieve the anxiety. It allows the person to distant himself from the stressful emotions that he is experiencing. It is important to highlight that through intellectualization the person can adopt a cold, distant approach to the problem so that it does not affect him emotionally.

Let us take an example to comprehend this. A person who finds out that he is diagnosed with a terminal disease may make an attempt to find as much information he can about the disease and read as much as he can about its prognosis. This is a defense mechanism because by hiding himself behind scientific jargon and technical terminology the individual can cope up with the situation better without having to deal with his emotions of pain and suffering.

Difference Between Intellectualization and Rationalization

What is Rationalization?

Rationalization is also a defense mechanism in which the individual constructs a logical justification in order to reduce the anxiety. The difference between intellectualization and rationalization is that while intellectualization uses intellectual components, rationalization uses logic to reduce the anxiety. Unlike in the case of intellectualization, rationalization is where the individual finds an excuse for his mistakes to avoid condemnation and guilt.

People use rationalization in different situations. One is when they fail to achieve something. For an example a person who fails to get a promotion would say ‘it was anyway not worth it because it is too much work.’ Here the person is rationalizing the situation in order to hide his disappointment. People also use rationalization when they want to convince themselves and others that a particular event happened for the best. For example, imagine a person applies for a higher stream of education in college but gets selected for a lower one. The person might say ‘I am glad it happened; now I have more freedom.’

Notice how in both situations rationalization assists the individual to feel better of himself. Psychologists believe that rationalization works to the advantage of the individual where he would rather blame the circumstances or find a positive link in order to reduce anxiety.

Key Difference - Intellectualization vs Rationalization

What is the Difference Between Intellectualization and Rationalization?

Definitions of Intellectualization and Rationalization:

Intellectualization: Intellectualization is a defense mechanism where the individual seeks the assistance of intellectual components in order to relieve the anxiety.

Rationalization: Rationalization is where the individual constructs a logical justification in order to reduce the anxiety.

Characteristics of Intellectualization and Rationalization:

Defense mechanism:

Intellectualization: Intellectualization is a defense mechanism.

Rationalization: Rationalization is a defense mechanism.

Specialty:

Intellectualization: Intellectualization relies on the intellectual components to reduce anxiety.

Rationalization:  Rationalization relies on logic to reduce anxiety.

Function:

Intellectualization: Intellectualization distances the painful emotions related to the stressful event.

Rationalization: Rationalization assists the individual to not feel guilty or condemn oneself.

 

Image Courtesy:
1. “Book Collage” by User:David Monniaux, flickr user 007 Tanuki, User:Jorge Ryan, and User:ZX95 – File:Uncut book p1190369.jpg , File:Used books 001.jpg , and File:Austria – Admont Abbey Library – 1407.jpg. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons
2. “The Fox and the Grapes – Project Gutenberg etext 19994” by Illustration by Milo Winter. – Illustration from The Æsop for Children, by Æsop. Project Gutenberg etext 19994. [Public Domain] via Commons