Don’t believe everything you think

Tell me the truth, lizard – am I deceiving myself?

Tell me the truth, lizard – am I deceiving myself?

The human capacity for self-deception knows no bounds, but why do we do it? According to biologist Robert Trivers the simple answer is that it helps us have more children. He told Graham Lawton about the evolutionary benefits of lying

Graham Lawton 

Psychologists been interested in self-deception for years, but you say we need a new science of self-deception?
Yes. Because the psychologists have not produced a theory. Self-deception lies at the heart of psychology, but if you read only psychology you will go blind and probably crazy before you discern the underlying principles. A functional view of self-deception has to come out of evolutionary logic. It has to be a pay-off in terms of reproductive success.

You argue that we deceive ourselves all the time, but why do we do it?
One reason is to better deceive others. Deceiving consciously is cognitively demanding. I’ve got to invent a false story while being aware of the truth, it’s got to be plausible, it cannot contradict anything you already know or are going to find out and I’ve got to be able to remember it so that I don’t contradict myself.

This takes concentration and I may give off cues that I’m lying. If I try to slip something by you I may not be able to meet your gaze. For linguistic cues, there are more pauses and fillers while I try to come up with my story. I’ll choose simple action words and avoid qualifiers. Another thing that gives us away us is the effort to control ourselves. Let’s say I’m coming to a key word in a lie. I tense up, but tensing up automatically raises my voice. That’s a very hard thing to fight.

So believing the lie yourself can help with this cognitive burden? …

What other types of self-deception are there?

So we self-deceive in order to give ourselves an ego boost?

What are the benefits of deceiving other people?

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