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Making Sense of Self-Deception: Distinguishing Self-Deception from Delusion, Moral Licensing, Cognitive Dissonance and Other Self-Distortions*

Abstract
Abstract

There has been no systematic study in the literature of how self-deception differs from other kinds of self-distortion. For example, the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ has been used in some cases as a rag-bag term for all kinds of self-distortion. To address this, a narrow definition is given: self-deception involves injecting a given set of facts with an erroneous fact to make an ex ante suboptimal decision seem as if it were ex ante optimal. Given this narrow definition, this paper delineates self-deception from deception as well as from other kinds of self-distortions such as delusion, moral licensing, cognitive dissonance, manipulation, and introspective illusion.

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This paper benefited from the comments of Robert Trivers, William von Hippel, Gerd Gigerenzer, Robin E. Pope, Richard Posner, Haiou Zhou, Jonathan Baron, Philip T. Dunwoody, Andreas Ortmann, Steven Gardner, Athena Aktipis, and anonymous referees. It also benefited from the research assistance of Michael Dunstan and Peter Lambert. The usual caveat applies.

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* This paper benefited from the comments of Robert Trivers, William von Hippel, Gerd Gigerenzer, Robin E. Pope, Richard Posner, Haiou Zhou, Jonathan Baron, Philip T. Dunwoody, Andreas Ortmann, Steven Gardner, Athena Aktipis, and anonymous referees. It also benefited from the research assistance of Michael Dunstan and Peter Lambert. The usual caveat applies.

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