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Self-delusion January 14, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Brain Glitches, Questions, Responses.
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I’m reading Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature.  It’s an enormous and thorough work on the decline of violence.  Each chapter could really be a book on it’s own, and it’s taking me a really long time to work through it.

A day or so ago, though, this sentence jumped out at me.  It’s in a section where he’s discussing why humans tend to think they are more competent, smarter, and luckier than they actually are:

“… Positive illusions are a bargaining tactic, a credible bluff.  In recruiting an ally to support you in a risky venture, in bargaining for the best deal, or in intimidating an adversary into backing down, you stand to gain if you credibly exaggerate your strengths.  Believing your own exaggerations is better than cynically lying about it, because the arms race between lying and lie detection has equipped your audience with the means of seeing through barefaced lies.” (pg 512)

Hmm.  I’ve been looking for reasons why humans tend to be so good at self-delusion, and this idea could factor into the explanation.  But its validity would hinge on humans being reasonably good at detecting lies.  I’m not convinced that they are, especially given recent politics.

What do you think?

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Comments»

1. Mechanicdude - January 14, 2017

Hi Ubi- I think it was P. D. Ouspensky that said: “The study of humanity IS the study of lying”…Food for thought -MD

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2. makagutu - January 15, 2017

Nietzsche writing on truth says we don’t like lies coz we don’t want to be deceived. That could explain why we can detect deception

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Mechanicdude - January 15, 2017

makagutu- Cant say I have ever developed any significant method of detecting lies and deception. My hindsight is always better than my foresight. Being able to avoid being deceived would be a wonderful survival instinct that I wish I had! -MD

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makagutu - January 17, 2017

Mechanicdude- you are right in that we detect deception mostly after the fact and not before or during. I, too, would be happy if I head a method of detecting deception beforehand

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3. Nan - January 15, 2017

… you stand to gain if you credibly exaggerate your strengths.

This has most certainly proven true in the recent elections. And continues to this day. And will probably continue into the next four years. 😦

Liked by 2 people

4. shelldigger - January 17, 2017

Looks like we all had Trump jump into our heads at the same time.

I have some mildly seething contempt for todays human. Self absorbed, shallow, uninformed, misinformed, social media junkies, unaware of just about anything beyond their personal bubble. And lacking the depth to understand much beyond that bubble.

Carlos Mencia had a tagline “one in three is a deet dee dee” (moron). After this election I’d say one in two has been sniffing glue.

Liked by 1 person

5. michelle - January 29, 2017

What an excellent blog entry, book, and selection of quotes for explaining our times. I have had so many bizarre conversations with Trump supporters who have convinced themselves that their beliefs must be true because “everyone else” is “thinking the same thing” and that “alternative fact’ convinces them they and their president are on the right side of history. Gonna have to read that book.

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