A defense mechanism involving the construction of a logical justification for seemingly illogical or unacceptable feelings or behaviors. Rationalization can be conscious or subconscious, and is one of Freud’s proposed defense mechanisms. This defensive manuever is often called “making excuses.”
People who rationalize know on some level (conscious or unconscious) that they have done something unwise or ill-advised and therefore they concoct a reason (or many reasons) why they did the right thing. Generally, this defense mechanism is used to avoid feelings of intense guilt.
Example: A person purchases a luxury car and then justifies the purchase by telling people how old and unsafe their old vehicle was.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Jul 2010