If you'd ask people about what's important to them, you'd get answers that might differ from their actions. For example: someone who states that playing soccer is important to them, yet always skips practice and finds excuses to miss the match. Or someone who says waking up at 4AM is important to them, but never wakes up before 6AM.

I believe soccer is not that important to the person from the example above, else they'd be there. If waking up at 4AM was truly important to someone, they'd do it. I don't believe someone who willingly neglects their children or spouse truly loves them.

Under what school of thought do we determine what is important to people based on their actions, instead of what they say is important to them?

Edit: Taking this a bit further, we might judge ideologies or ideas by their actions. For example: Communism claims that it cares about the working class, yet often when Communists come into power we see disregard for the working class. Or if we judge Catholicism for the amount of child abuse it has caused, as opposed to someone claiming that's not what the Catholic Church is about. Could this be framed under consequentialism?

  • I don't think it's a school. More like common sense.
    – user20253
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 9:38
  • I agree with common sense, also intellectual honesty, both of which are tragically being challenged by more dishonest and less sensible societal values.
    – Bread
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 9:46

2 Answers 2


Social intuitionism may be considered a school of thought where "what is important to people is based on their actions, instead of what they say is important to them".

Here is Wikipedia's description referencing Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind:

In moral psychology, social intuitionism is a model that proposes that moral positions and judgments are: (1) primarily intuitive ("intuitions come first"), (2) rationalized, justified, or otherwise explained after the fact, (3) taken mainly to influence other people, and are (4) often influenced and sometimes changed by discussing such positions with others.

This is opposed to a rationalist theory of morality and de-emphasizes the role of reasoning or what people say is important to them.

Haidt asserts that moral judgment is primarily given rise to by intuition, with reasoning playing a smaller role in most of our moral decision-making. Conscious thought-processes serve as a kind of post hoc justification of our decisions.

What one is actually doing is more important than one's rationalizations, one's reasoning, about what one is doing.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, March 8). Social intuitionism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:51, April 11, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Social_intuitionism&oldid=886843595


That's an issue in psychology. It's a question about motivation and performance.

There are philosophical aspects involved also...


“To say that something is authentic is to say that it is what it professes to be, or what it is reputed to be, in origin or authorship. But the distinction between authentic and derivative is more complicated when discussing authenticity as a characteristic attributed to human beings.” Varga, Somogy and Guignon, Charles, "Authenticity", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

And integrity:

“[T]he most philosophically important sense of the term ‘integrity’ relates to general character. Philosophers have been particularly concerned to understand what it is for a person to exhibit integrity throughout life. What is it to be a person of integrity? Ordinary discourse about integrity involves two fundamental intuitions: first, that integrity is primarily a formal relation one has to oneself, or between parts or aspects of one’s self; and second, that integrity is connected in an important way to acting morally, in other words, there are some substantive or normative constraints on what it is to act with integrity.” Cox, Damian, La Caze, Marguerite and Levine, Michael, "Integrity", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

As for motivation and performance, that’s very long story, but not philosophy. I began studying psychology in the seventies, and I’m still learning more about these topics every day!

@Frank pointed out that what we do is more important than what we think and say - that's because what we think doesn't affect others and what we do has more impact than what we say. Just imagine if we took up the habit of promising great things every day and did our best to follow through - isn't that a nice idea? We'd probably be unable to accomplish every promise every day, we'd fail a lot, but putting in that kind of effort usually produces much better results than doing what we feel like doing irrespective of what we've promised.

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