The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life

The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life

by Robert Trivers

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Whether it's in a cockpit at takeoff or the planning of an offensive war, a romantic relationship or a dispute at the office, there are many opportunities to lie and self-deceive — but deceit and self-deception carry the costs of being alienated from reality and can lead to disaster. So why does deception play such a prominent role in our everyday lives? In short, why do we deceive?

In his bold new work, prominent biological theorist Robert Trivers unflinchingly argues that self-deception evolved in the service of deceit — the better to fool others. We do it for biological reasons — in order to help us survive and procreate. From viruses mimicking host behavior to humans misremembering (sometimes intentionally) the details of a quarrel, science has proven that the deceptive one can always outwit the masses. But we undertake this deception at our own peril.

Trivers has written an ambitious investigation into the evolutionary logic of lying and the costs of leaving it unchecked.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465085972
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 404,995
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Robert L. Trivers is a Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. He won the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences in 2007 for his fundamental analysis of social evolution, conflict, and cooperation. He lives in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

1 The Evolutionary Logic of Self-Deception 1

The Evolution of Self-Deception 3

Deception-Is Everywhere 6

What Is Self-Deception? 8

Detecting Deception in Humans via Cognitive Load 9

Self-Deception Is Older Than Language 13

Nine Categories of Self-Deception 15

The Hallmarks of Self-Deception 27

2 Deception in Nature 29

The Coevolutionary Struggle Between Deceiver and Deceived 30

Frequency-Dependent Selection in Butterflies 30

An Epic Coevolutionary Struggle 31

Intelligence and Deception 36

Female Mimics 38

False Alarm Calls 39

Camouflage 40

Death and Near-Death Acts 41

Randomness as a Strategy 42

Deception May Induce Anger 43

Animals May Be Conscious of Deception 45

Deception as an Evolutionary Game 48

A Deeper Theory of Deception 50

3 Neurophysiology and Levels of Imposed Self-Deception 53

The Neurophysiology of Conscious Knowledge 54

The Neurophysiology of Thought Suppression 56

The Irony of Trying to Suppress One's Thoughts 57

Improving Deception Through Neural Inhibition 58

Unconscious Self-Recognition Shows Self-Deception 59

Can One Half of the Brain Hide from the Other? 61

Imposed Self-Deception 63

Implicit Versus Explicit Self-Esteem 64

False Confessions, Torture, and Flattery 66

False Memories of Child Abuse 67

Is Self-Deception the Psyche's Immune System? 68

The Placebo Effect 70

4 Self-Deception in the Family-and the Split Self 77

Parent/Offspring Conflict 80

Cases of Extreme Abuse 81

Genomic Imprinting 82

Internal Conflict from Oppositely Imprinted Genes 84

Parental Manipulation and Imprinting 85

The Effect of Marital Conflict on Genetic Conflict 86

Imprinting and Self-Deception 87

Deception in Children 88

Parental Effects on Children's Deception 92

5 Deceit, Self-Deception, and Sex 95

Why Sex? 96

Two Sexes-Two Coevolving Species 97

Deception and Self-Deception at Courtship 99

Whose Baby Is It? 100

Male Response to Female Infidelity 101

Deceit and a Woman's Monthly Cycle 103

Men's Self-Deceit About Female Interest 105

Male Denial of Homosexual Tendencies 106

Is Self-Deception Good or Bad for Marriage? 107

The Appeal and Danger of Fantasy 109

The Pain of Betrayal 110

6 The Immunology of Self-Deception 115

The Immune System Is Expensive 117

The Importance of Sleep 120

Trade-Offs with Immunity 121

Writing About Trauma Improves Immune Function 125

Homosexuality and the Effects of Denial 128

Positive Affect and Immune Function 130

The Effects of Music 132

Positivity in Old Age 133

An Immunological Theory of Happiness 135

7 The Psychology of Self-Deception 139

Avoiding Some Information and Seeking Out Other 140

Biased Encoding and Interpretation of Information 142

Biased Memory 143

Rationalization and Biased Reporting 145

Predicting Future Feelings 146

Are All Biases Due to Self-Deception? 147

Denial and Projection 148

Denial Is Self-Reinforcing 150

Your Aggression, My Self-Defense 151

Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Justification 151

Social Effects of Cognitive Dissonance Reduction 154

Cognitive Dissonance in Monkeys and Young Children 155

8 Self-Deception in Everyday Life 157

Sex Differences in Overconfidence 157

Metaphors in the Stock Market 160

Manipulative Metaphors in Life 161

The Name-Letter Effect 164

Deceiving Down and Dummying Up 167

Face-ism 168

Spam Against Anti-Spam 170

Humor, Laughter, and Self-Deception 172

Drugs and Self-Deception 173

Vulnerability to Manipulation by Others 175

Professional Con Artists 176

Lie-Detector Tests 180

9 Self-Deception in Aviation and Space Disasters 183

Air Florida Flight 90-Doomed by Self-Deception? 184

Disaster 37,000 Feet Above the Amazon 189

Eldar Takes Command-Aeroflot Flight 593 191

Simple Pilot Error-or Pilot Fatigue? 192

Ice Overpowers the Pilots; Airlines Overpower the FAA 194

The US Approach to Safety Helps Cause 9/11 198

The Challenger Disaster 201

The Columbia Disaster 205

Egypt and Egypt Air Deny All 209

When the Head of the Airforce Becomes the Pilot-the Crash That Took Out Poland's Entire Leadership in 2010 212

Saved by Lack of Self-Deception? 213

10 False Historical Narratives 215

The US False Historical Narrative 218

Control Through Small Wars and Installed Proxies 222

US History Textbooks 224

Larger View of US History 225

The Rewriting of Japanese History 227

Turkey's Holocaust Denial 230

A Land Without People for a People Without Land 233

The Founding of the State of Israel 235

Voluntary Flight or Ethnic Cleansing? 237

Arab Deceit and Self-Deception 239

Christian Zionism 241

First Line of Defense: Cry "Anti-Semite" 243

Why False Historical Narratives? 245

11 Self-Deception and War 247

Chimpanzee Raiding → Human Warfare 249

Self-Deception Encourages Warfare 252

Derogation of Others → Fatal Overconfidence 255

The 2003 US War on Iraq 257

Creating Knowledge and Then Walling It Off 263

Can Wars Be Won Through Bombing? 265

Bombing to Eradicate History and to Reinforce It 268

Carnage in Gaza 270

Self-Deception and the History of War 274

12 Religion and Self-Deception 277

Cooperation Within the Group 280

Religion: A Recipe for Self-Deception 282

Religion and Health 285

Parasites and Religious Diversity 288

Why the Bias Against Women? 291

Power Corrupts 292

Religions Impose Mating Systems 294

Religion Preaches Against Self-Deception 295

Intercessory Prayer-Does It Work? 299

Religion and Support for Suicide Attacks 300

Religion → Self-Righteousness → Warfare 301

13 Self-Deception and the Structure of the Social Sciences 303

Precedence of Justice Over Truth? 304

Success of Science Is Based on Anti-Self-Deception Devices 305

The More Social the Discipline, the More Retarded Its Development 307

Self-Deception in Biology 308

Is Economics a Science? 310

Cultural Anthropology 313

Psychology 315

Psychoanalysis: Self-Deception in the Study of Self-Deception 317

Self-Deception Deforms Disciplines 319

14 Fighting Self-Deception in our own lives 321

To Fight One's Own Self-Deception or Not? 323

A Series of Minor Victories Followed by a Major Disaster 324

Signals of Underlying Mental Screw-Ups 324

Correcting for Our Own Biases 326

Why Are We So Compulsive? 327

The Value of Being Conscious 329

The Danger of Fantasy in Propagating Deception 330

The Benefits of Prayer and Meditation 331

Value of Friends and Counselors 332

An Invitation to Self-Deception and Personal Disaster 333

A Never-Ending Extravaganza 334

Acknowledgments 339

Notes 341

Bibliography 355

Index 387

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