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.
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.
1 Caldwell C., ‘Identity, Self-Awareness, and Self-Deception: Ethical Implications for Leaders and Organizations’, Journal of Business Ethics 90(Supplement) (2009), 393–406 .
2 Khalil E.L., ‘Self-Deception as a Weightless Mask’, Facta Universitatis, Series: Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, and History 15 (2016), 1–11 .
3 Cosmides L. and Tooby J., ‘Better than Rational: Evolutionary Psychology and the Invisible Hand’, American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings 84 (1994), 327–332 .
4 von Hippel W. and Trivers R., ‘The Evolution and Psychology of Self-Deception’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2011a), 1–16 .
5 von Hippel W. and Trivers R., ‘Reflections on Self-Deception’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2011b), 41–56 .
6 Trivers R., ‘The Elements of a Scientific Theory of Self-Deception’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 907 (2000), 114–131 .
7 Khalil E.L., ‘The Weightless Hat: Is Self-Deception Optimal?’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2011), 30–31 . (A commentary on W. von Hippel and R. Trivers, ‘The Evolution And Psychology Of Self-Deception’).
8 Khalil E.L., ‘Self-Deception as a Weightless Mask’, Facta Universitatis, Series: Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, and History 15 (2016), 1–11 .
9 Van Leeuwen D.S.N., ‘The Spandrels of Self-Deception: Prospects for a Biological Theory of a Mental Phenomenon’, Philosophical Psychology 20 (2007), 329–348 .
10 Gould S.J. and Lewontin R.C., ‘The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme’, Proceedings of Royal Society, London B, 205 (1979), 581–59.
11 Marciano A. and Khalil E.L., ‘Optimization, Path Dependence and the Law: Can Judges Promote Efficiency?’, International Review of Law and Economics 32 (2012), 72–82 .
12 Khalil E.L., ‘Lock-in Institutions and Efficiency’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 88 (2013), 27–36 .
13 Mele A., Self-Deception Unmasked (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).
14 Mele A., Irrationality: An Essay on Akrasia, Self-Deception, Self-Control (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
15 Mele A., ‘Self-Deception and Delusions’, European Journal of Analytic Philosophy (EUJAP) , 2 (2006), 109–124 .
16 Erez A., Johnson D.E., and Judge T.A., ‘Self-Deception as a Mediator of the Relationship between Dispositions and Subjective Well-Being’, Personality and Individual Differences 19 (1995), 597–61.
17 Khalil E.L., ‘Symbolic Products: Prestige, Pride and Identity Goods’, Theory and Decision 49 (2000), 53–77 .
18 Op. cit. note 13.
19 Op. cit. note 14.
20 Davidson D., ‘Deception and Division’, in Elster Jon (ed.) The Multiple Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, 79–92).
21 Davidson D., ‘Who Is Fooled?’, in Dupuy J.P. (ed.) Self-Deception and Paradoxes of Rationality (Stanford: CSLI Publications, 1998).
22 Pears D., Motivated Irrationality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).
23 Pears D., ‘The Goals and Strategies of Self-Deception’, in Elster J. (ed.) The Multiple Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).
24 Taylor S.E., Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind (New York: Basic Books, 1989).
25 Oxoby R.J., ‘Attitudes and Allocations: Status, Cognitive Dissonance, and The Manipulation of Attitudes’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 52 (2003), 365–85.
26 Oxoby R.J., ‘Cognitive Dissonance, Status, and the Growth of the Underclass’, Economic Journal 114 (2004), 727–749 .
27 Bénabou R. and Tirole J., ‘Identity, Morals, and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets’, Quarterly Journal of Economics 126 (2011), 805–855 .
28 Aronson E., The Social Animal (San Francisco: Freeman Press, 1994).
29 Op. cit. note 27.
30 Young H.P., ‘Self-Knowledge and Self-Deception’ , unpublished (2007), University of Oxford .
31 Aktipis C.A., ‘An Evolutionary Perspective on Consciousness: The Role of Emotion, Theory of Mind and Self-Deception’, The Harvard Brain 7 (2000), 29–34 .
32 Kurzban R. and Aktipis C.A., ‘Modularity and the Social Mind: Are Psychologists too Selfish?’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 11 (2007), 131–149 .
33 E.L. Khalil and A. Marciano, ‘A Theory of Tasteful and Distasteful Transactions’, Kyklos (2017), forthcoming.
34 Sachdeva S., Iliev R., and Medin D.L., ‘Sinning Saints and Saintly Sinners: The Paradox of Moral Self-Regulation’, Psychological Science 20 (2009), 523–528 .
35 Merritt A., Effron D.A., and Monin B., ‘Moral Self-Licensing: When Being Good Frees us to be Bad’, Social and Personality Psychology Compass 4/5 (2010), 344–357 .
36 Khan U. and Dhar R., ‘Licensing Effect in Consumer Choice’, Journal of Marketing Research 43 (2006), 259–266 .
37 Op cit. note 35, p. 344.
38 The literature on moral licensing, although nascent and limited, usually fails to define what is moral and what is an immoral act. So, it tends to conflate moral licensing with another phenomenon, viz. equilibrating the marginal utility of different acts. People substitute at the margin different action in order to maximise the overall objective function. For instance, one can become excessively benevolent to others on one day, which would crowd out benevolent actions in the following day. Here, the agent is not using moral credentials as a license to act badly. The agent is rather balancing the scarce resources between two competing preferences, the wellbeing of others vs. the well-being of the self.
39 Akerlof G.A. and Dickens W.T., ‘The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance’, American Economic Review 72 (1982), 307–319 .
40 Festinger L., A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957).
41 Festinger L., ‘Some Attitudinal Consequences of Forced Decisions’, Acta Psychologica 15 (1959), 389–390 .
42 Morris J. A. and Feldman D.C., ‘The Dimensions, Antecedents, and Consequences of Emotional Labor’, Academy of Management Review 21 (1996), 986–1010 .
43 Lerner M.J. and Simmons C.H., ‘Observer's Reaction to the “Innocent Victim”: Compassion or Rejection’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 4 (1996), 203–210 .
44 Lerner M.J., The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion (New York: Plenum Press, 1980).
45 Akerlof G.A., ‘The Economics of Illusion’, Economics & Politics 1 (1989), 1–15 .
46 Rabin M., ‘Cognitive Dissonance and Social Change’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 23 (1994), 177–194 .
47 Khalil E.L., ‘Temptations as Impulsivity: How Far are Regret and the Allais Paradox from Shoplifting?’, Economic Modelling 51 (2015), 551–559 .
48 Konow J., ‘Fair Shares: Accountability and Cognitive Dissonance in Allocation Decisions’, American Economic Review 90 (2000), 1072–1091 .
49 Dana J., Weber R., and Kuang J., ‘Exploiting Moral Wriggle Room: Experiments Demonstrating an Illusory Preference for Fairness’, Economic Theory 33 (2007), 67–80 .
50 Larson T. and Capra C.M., ‘Exploiting Moral Wiggle Room: Illusory Preference for Fairness? A Comment’, Judgment and Decision Making 4 (2009), 467–474 .
51 Engels F., ‘Letter to Franz Mehring (1893)’, in Marx and Engels Correspondence (New York: International Publishers, 1968).
52 Gramsci A., Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (New York: International Publishers, 1971).
53 Kuran T., Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).
54 Khalil E.L., ‘Review: Timur Kuran's Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification ’, Southern Economic Journal 63 (1996), 269–270 .
55 Op. cit. note 28.
56 Nisbett R.E. and Wilson T.D., ‘Telling More Than We Can Know: Verbal Reports on Mental Processes’, Psychological Review 84 (1977), 231–259 .
57 Wilson T.D., Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2002).
58 Wilson T.D. and Dunn. E.W. ‘Self-Knowledge: Its Limits, Value, and Potential for Improvement’, Annual Review of Psychology 55 (2004), 493–518 .
59 Wegner D.M., ‘Self is Magic’, in Baer J., Kaufman J.C., and Baumeister R.F. (eds) Are we Free? Psychology and Free Will (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
60 Pronin E., Wegner D.M., McCarthy K., and Rodriguez S., ‘Everyday Magical Powers: The Role of Apparent Mental Causation in the Overestimation of Personal Influence’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91 (2006), 218–231 .
61 Johansson P., Hall L., Sikström S., Tärning B., and Lind A., ‘How Something Can be Said about Telling More Than We Can Know: On Choice Blindness and Introspection’, Consciousness and Cognition 15 (2006), 673–692 .
62 Pyszczynski T., Greenberg J., and Solomon S., ‘A Dual-Process Model of Defense Against Conscious and Unconscious Death-Related Thoughts: An Extension of Terror Management Theory’, Psychological Review 106 (1999), 835–845 .
63 Fischhoff B. and Beyth R., ‘“I Knew It Would Happen”: Remembered Probabilities of Once-Future Things’, Organizational Behaviour and Human Performance 13 (1975), 1–16 .
64 Roese N.J. and Vohs K.D., ‘Hindsight Bias’, Perspectives on Psychological Science 7 (2012), 411–426 .
65 Yuan J., Sun G.-Z., and Siu R., ‘The Lure of Illusory Luck: How Much Are People Willing to Pay For Random Shocks’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 106 (2014), 269–280 .
* 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.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.
Full text views reflects the number of PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.
* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 18th September 2017 - 16th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.