AirTalk for February 9, 2012

Why do we lie to ourselves?

By Robert Trivers

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

Deceit and self-deception are universal aspects of everyday life. There are numerous examples of deception in nature, from birds that trick other species into raising their young, to fireflies, orchids and sunfish that use sexual mimicry and squids that camouflage themselves to hide from predators.

In humans, deceit and self-deception are more complex, amusing and sometimes dangerous. In his new book "The Folly of Fools," evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers examines the myriad of ways we deceive ourselves and others. Trivers contends that we all consciously or unconsciously routinely deceive ourselves by creating or suppressing memories, rationalizing immoral behavior or boosting our own self image.

The renowned biologist argues that self-deception evolved so we could better deceives others and we deceive others in order to thrive, survive and procreate. He takes us on a wide-ranging tour of the science of deceit and self-deception and illustrates how the behavior is favored by natural selection. “We make up false narratives about all the time, about our own behavior, about our relationships, about our larger groups,” writes Trivers. Ultimately, the author believes we would live better, healthier lives by being more honest with ourselves and each other.

WEIGH IN:

Do you believe that deception (and self-deception) is a survival mechanism? How do you deceive yourself and is this behavior without consequence or potentially harmful or dangerous for you and those around you?

Guest:

Robert Trivers, Author of "The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life" (Basic Books); 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.


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