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The podcast “What are the Odds” from The Hidden Brain deals with the subject of coincidences and their place in our everyday life. They aim to explain the mathematics behind coincidences and the influence of processes in the human brain on our perception of coincidences.
George Ritzer, on the other hand, aims to explore the notion of rationalization and its increasing effect on the community. He explains that the rationalization today is seen more like a fast-food restaurant than a bureaucratic structure. The basic principles of rationalization that affects the social processes today include efficiency, calculability, predictability, control, and irrationalities of rationality (Ritzer 293-294). In other words, all processes that occur within the community are supposed to be efficient, quantitative rather than qualitative, predictable, controlled, and somewhat irrational in terms of the people’s opinion on them.
Relation to the podcast
The Hidden Brain, essentially, argues that our attitudes are guided by the same principles of rationalization. The processes in our brain control our thoughts and actions to increase their efficiency, why is why they are usually predictable. Moreover, as described in the podcast, we tend to pay attention to the smallest of coincidences, thus attributing more value to their quantity rather than quality. Finally, the overall belief in coincidences and the ecstatic reaction to discovering one is irrational, given their explainability: according to the scientists’ claims, about 80% of coincidences we see as extraordinary are not coincidences at all. Instead, these occurrences result from our misconception about the number of people we know and the odds of meeting them (“What are the odds?” 9:25-9:45).
Overall, it is clear that the theory of McDonaldization, as described by Ritzer, applies not just to the interactions between people, but also to the people’s actions and opinions, as it follows the very basics of the processes that occur in our brain. Expanding the theory of rationalization to include all aspects of human behavior and not just the social one would provide us with a new way of explaining the various behavioral phenomena.
Ritzer, George. “The McDonaldization Thesis: Is Expansion Inevitable?” International Sociology, vol. 11, no. 3, 1996, pp. 291-308.
“What Are the Odds?” The Hidden Brain from NPR, 2016, Web.