Pros and Cons of Self-Delusion

Monday, November 28, 2011

Robert Trivers, Rutgers professor of anthropology and biological sciences and author of The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, shares what he's learned about the competing human propensities for fact-finding and self-delusion.


Robert Trivers

Comments [21]

Anne from Staten Island

I hesitated over the last three hours to send this email so here goes: the first telephone caller on today’s segment on self-delusion – “Megan from Orange County” could have been me. I was driving and listening to the Brian Leherer show as I do nearly every day, daydreaming while the professor was talking about how very much I would love to call in to say – literally – the exact same thing as Megan: unable to extricate from a long, difficult, abusive marriage because of the investment and history, the children, and yes, the self-delusion, that things will change for the better some day. . . and so the years go by and the outside world sees us as a happy little group – the big lie that becomes impossible to undo after nearly four decades. And as we’re driving, I think how totally unlikely it would be for this fantasy caller to then go on to express the really heavy load that results from years of self-deception, the stuff that’s in my head 24/7: How this truly bad marriage is nothing more than a “colossal waste of human potential – his and mine!” I almost drove off the road when Megan her comments with that line. I can only wonder how she gets through a day reviewing, as I do, each of the years that has passed and the possibilities forever lost (happiness with another man, alone, different career decisions, children – or not), if only the urge to self-deceive was not so powerful a force. Yes, you are a brave soul, Megan. Thank you. And if you’re so inclined I would love to continue this conversation. The producers have my email and a request to forward it to you.

Nov. 28 2011 03:17 PM
M from Staten Island

...that one day I will be rich, and thus I don't need to plan too much for the future.

I still have plenty of time to make this right, of course, and am working on it, but sometimes, you swallow the american dream so much that when it's time to give that up it's hard to even breathe.

Nov. 28 2011 12:00 PM
My delusion : that life would get better. from "The sun will come out tomorrow"

Here's my delusion :

Life will eventually get better.

Today's difficulties will somehow work out OK.

Of course, it never has.

Here's another :

All one needs to do is work hard, study hard and be a flexible and decent person and one will be able to get by or even eventually have a life and reenter the middle class in America.

These delusions make one feel better, but they also prevent one from recognizing that for most people in the US nowadays,
life is a scam perpetrated upon them by the
people at the top.

Nov. 28 2011 11:49 AM
Tom Gettler from NYC (Manhattan)

Brian says to his guest, "We only have a minute and a half left," and then Brian proceeds to take up most of that time with his prolix question-cum-comment. FINALLY, Brian finishes, and his guest start to answer, and Brian interrupts him with something David Brooks had written on the topic, and again Brian is too wordy and the segment ends with no meaningful response to Brian's very interesting question, which could have taken 15 words and 7 seconds to ask. Brian does this kind of thing too often, which is why I'm writing. Call it the "Charlie Rose Syndrome." Please, Brian, be mindful of this. Thanks and love your show and think you're terrific, btw.

Nov. 28 2011 11:03 AM
Ellen N from NYC

The most interesting part of the interview- the question about the Penn State scandal -was cut short. Can he come back and just talk about that?

Nov. 28 2011 11:03 AM
dboy from nyc

I have NEVER heard a more cogent synopsis of David Brooks' ersatz perceptions as Mr. Trivers' in this segment.

Thank you Robert Trivers!!

Nov. 28 2011 11:02 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

@Hugh Sansom

Couldn't agree with you more.

I dislike the pop psychology segments that seem to be popping up more and more often on Brian's show.

Nov. 28 2011 11:01 AM
Sera from Hoboken

... that even though I smoke, I won't get lung cancer.
... that even though I'm getting near early 40s (female), I can still get pregnant.
... that if I work hard enough, I can get *that* body.

Nov. 28 2011 10:58 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Can one "reveal" self-deceptions? Doesn't it take insight in order to do that and therefore you are not deceiving yourself?

Nov. 28 2011 10:58 AM
Upper West Sider from Upper West Side, NYC

Isn't some self-deception necessary? Too much reality is too hard to bear, no?

Nov. 28 2011 10:57 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Common self-deception in the political sphere: republicans are better with the economy

Nov. 28 2011 10:56 AM

It's quite amazing to hear a professor of anthropology and biological science at Rutgers get a basic fact about evolutionary biology WRONG.

The analogy between a person lying to a spouse and a bird is _just_ an analogy.

What reason does Trivers have to believe that lower reproductive success is a _phenotype_ corresponding to any _genotype_? He doesn't. He's making this up. It's an evolutionary psychological just-so story.

Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin and others debunked this nonsense years ago. Why the pseudo-science of Trivers and others like him persists is baffling.

Trivers is making questionable claims about psychology and deeply unfounded claims about the biological basis for psychology (which is NOT to say there is no biological basis whatsoever for psychology).

Trivers should be laughed off the stage in shame. Instead me makes a killing as a 'scientific' snake-oil salesman.

Nov. 28 2011 10:56 AM

that i need to be successful to have a good life ....

Nov. 28 2011 10:55 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

@Robert from NYC

Yes he does!!! lol

Nov. 28 2011 10:55 AM

For 10 years I told myself that, just because I wasn't having sexual intercourse with anyone else, I wasn't cheating on my wife. Well guess what--you don't have to do the nasty to have an affair.

Nov. 28 2011 10:52 AM
Robert from NYC

Gee, he cuts right to the chase. lol.

Nov. 28 2011 10:51 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie,NY

I look 20 years younger than I do.

Nov. 28 2011 10:51 AM
Stephen from murray hill


Entitlement lies: I deserve better living conditions despite a majority of the global population living less well than myself.

Self perception lies: Assuming that i am more intelligent than others.

Self protection lies: origins.

Nov. 28 2011 10:49 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I've consistently noticed more and more for several years that people are delusional, about small or important things.

I'm amazed at the ability of people to do this.

Nov. 28 2011 10:48 AM
Robert from NYC

I'm always right even when i'm wrong!

Nov. 28 2011 10:48 AM

black friday sales were through the roof this year

Nov. 28 2011 10:45 AM

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