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"Deceit and Self-Deception", by R. Trivers.

Trivers argues that deception and self-deception are evolutionary strategies used throughout nature, and humans are no exceptions. Here's a snippet of his book - 9 types of self-deception.

    1. Self inflation

    Most people routinely place themselves above average in all categories, for example, looks, skills, driving, personality, and competence. We exaggerate our abilities and minimise our failings.
    But, there are some cultures that value modesty more, for example, China and Japan.

    2. Derogation of others

    I accuse others of having the faults that I have and that I am ashamed of. If I suspect that I am stupid and incompetent, then I will accuse others of being this. It's useful for me to notice the accusations I make about others, because this will reveal my insecurities.
    Derogation of others is not a good idea; it leads to overconfidence and we underestimate our opponents, which is bad in any conflict situation.

    3. In-groups

    Children as young as three start forming groups. Groups can form on any characteristic, even superficial things like shirt colour. We are positive about our group and negative about other groups.
    Support for sports teams falls into this category, as is patriotism. Portsmouth FC fans such as me are decent chaps, whereas all Southhampton fans are the scum.

    4. Bias of Power

    if we think that we are powerful, we are less likely to be considerate to others and we are more selfish. "Entitled" I think is the modern parlance. Trivers writes that men are more prone to this than are women.

    5. Moral Superiority

    We believe that we are morally superior to others. We are the "good guys", and the others always morally corrupt and villainous. Moral status is more important to us than attractiveness or competence. We are often hypocritical in forgiving or excusing out faults, but condemning others for doing the same. The Danes (I think) have a proverb - the neighbour's dog barks louder than mine.

    6. Illusion of Control

    We kid ourselves that we are "in control". The feeling of "not being in control" is highly stressful so we have to create an illusion of control. Typically these can be superstitions, if I do "x" then "y" will always happen. We exaggerate our control over events.

    7. Biased social theory

    We believe that our position in society is privileged and favourable to ourselves.

    8. False personal narrative

    This is my own biased history of me. It is one in which I see myself as competent, confident, decent etc. My successes are due to my hardworking and skill, my failures are due to bad luck or bias in the system.

    National histories are similar, replete with self-glorification and self-justification. We foster false historical narratives to persuade ourselves that we belong to a uniquely successful and virtuous society. By doing this, we receive ourselves of the anxieties of life.

    9. Unconscious self-deception

    We deceive ourselves into thinking that we did X for reason "A", when in fact it was for reason "B". But we are being "honest"; we do believe that we're doing it for "A", but it's not the real reason.

    10. Deception in nature

    Jamaica anis birds - eat other fledglings. They mimic the cry of a fledgling in distress; the other fledglings respond and so give away their position. The Jamaica bird eats the fledglings.
    Fireflies - females of one species will imitate females of another, to lure unsuspecting males who get eaten.
    Bluegill sunfish - two types of males, one is six times larger than the females, and the other is the same size of females. The smaller pretends to be a female and then nips in to fertile the female's eggs.
    Chickens and ducks play dead when attacked by a fox, or pretend to have a broken wing, because foxes typically break a bird's wing first and then comes back later for the kill.

    11. Babies' fake crying and children

    Six month old babies will cry for a bit; they will then stop and look around to see if anyone is looking. If someone is looking, then they will resume crying, otherwise they won't bother,.

    From five years on, a child will lie to protect other people's feelings.

    Senegal proverb: Better an ugly baby that looks like you than a good-looking baby that looks like your neighbour.

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