On the occasions when I have contemplated what motivates human behavior, I have done so mostly within the framework of "nature/nurture." Are we motivated mostly by our genetics or by how our life experiences have formed us? Maybe they interact. Science tells us that certain environmental factors may cause mutations in our genes that could be carried through to our children. Maybe it's not either/or.

As a young man, I tried to test the nature/nurture paradigm when I visited my absent father to see what in him was common to me without any influence of "nurture." (Yes, I realize that it is anecdotal evidence.) Aside from the expected and obvious general physical similarities, I discovered to my dismay that I shared with him an unfortunate propensity to use sarcasm as a form of humor. This is a trait that I have tried to suppress much of my adult life. On the other hand, we can readily see the effects on our behavior from our upbringing, including the influences of communities of family, church, peers and guidance from teachers and mentors. But if we remain intellectually curious, much of this influence might be transitory.

The nature/nurture framework does not provide a full explanation for our behavior. Much of what I have seen recently confirms that we are subject to what psychologists call "motivated reasoning." In shorthand, it is a cognitive process that is driven unconsciously by our emotional framework or what is termed "motivations" or "goals." We accept as valid only that which we find emotionally satisfying or at least neutral ("confirmation bias") and reject immediately what, if accepted, would cause us anxiety ("identity protective cognition").

And of course, the way we think affects what we do.

I suggest that this explains why those who call themselves "law-and-order" people, who after successfully lobbying for mandatory minimum sentencing laws (I had called it, "another dumb idea whose time has come") don't want it applied to those who have committed crimes but with whom they share a common ideology or a feeling of tribal identity. I believe it applies to the publicly religious who lecture us that "character matters," except regarding those public officials who do their bidding on legislative and other legal matters. I believe that it explains the justification from avowed Christians for a governmental policy that rips children from their parents who have brought them here in an attempt to avoid violence in their own country and cage those children in places where they are vulnerable to predators.

I fear that we will also see that same process at work when some of my fellow Americans who see themselves as patriots will seek to justify the Russian interference in our 2016 election on the basis that it at least prevented "that woman" from becoming president. And I don't doubt that many of those same people will refuse to acknowledge the evidence when fully revealed, that might show our current president not only was a beneficiary of that interference, but a willing participant.

I sincerely hope that my essay will initiate a conversation on these issues, but I will ignore responses that are essentially "But what about...?" That is exactly the same as the young child who, when confronted with his misbehavior, exclaims: "But Johnny, did it first" in the belief that it justifies or excuses his bad behavior. It doesn't. It also doesn't excuse a refusal to examine ones behavior where strong feelings encase the thought process.

Facts matter. Observing them clearly is a predicate to correct decision-making and action.