In this article we argue that self-deception evolved to facilitate interpersonal deception by allowing people to avoid the cues to conscious deception that might reveal deceptive intent. Self-deception has two additional advantages: It eliminates the costly cognitive load that is typically associated with deceiving, and it can minimize retribution if the deception is discovered. Beyond its role in specific acts of deception, self-deceptive self-enhancement also allows people to display more confidence than is warranted, which has a host of social advantages. (...) The question then arises of how the self can be both deceiver and deceived. We propose that this is achieved through dissociations of mental processes, including conscious versus unconscious memories, conscious versus unconscious attitudes, and automatic versus controlled processes. Given the variety of methods for deceiving others, it should come as no surprise that self-deception manifests itself in a number of different psychological processes, and we discuss various types of self-deception. We then discuss the interpersonal versus intrapersonal nature of self-deception before considering the levels of consciousness at which the self can be deceived. Finally, we contrast our evolutionary approach to self-deception with current theories and debates in psychology and consider some of the costs associated with self-deception. (shrink)
Commentators raised 10 major questions with regard to self-deception: Are dual representations necessary? Does self-deception serve intrapersonal goals? What forces shape self-deception? Are there cultural differences in self-deception? What is the self? Does self-deception have costs? How well do people detect deception? Are self-deceivers lying? Do cognitive processes account for seemingly motivational ones? And how is mental illness tied up with self-deception? We address these questions and conclude that none of them compel major modifications to our theory of self-deception, although (...) many commentators provided helpful suggestions and observations. (shrink)
Von Hippel & Trivers (VH&T) propose that self-deception has evolved to facilitate the deception of others. However, they ignore the subjective moral costs of deception and the crucial issue of credibility in self-deceptive speech. A self-signaling interpretation can account for the ritualistic quality of some self-deceptive affirmations and for the often-noted gap between what self-deceivers say and what they truly believe.
Von Hippel & Trivers reason that the potential benefits of successfully deceiving others provide a basis for the evolution of self-deception. However, as self-deceptive processes themselves provide considerable adaptive value to an individual, self-deception may have evolved as an end in itself, rather than as the means to an end of improving other-deception.
Cultural variability in self-enhancement is far more pronounced than the authors suggest; the sum of the evidence does not show that East Asians self-enhance in different domains from Westerners. Incorporating this cultural variation suggests a different way of understanding the adaptiveness of self-enhancement: It is adaptive in contexts where positive self-feelings and confidence are valued over relationship harmony, but is maladaptive in contexts where relationship harmony is prioritized.
Von Hippel & Trivers (VH&T) interpret belief in God and belief in strong government as the outcome of an active process of self-deception on a worldwide scale. We propose, instead, that these beliefs might simply be a passive spin-off of efficient cognitive processes.