Notes of Interest from Robert Trivers,

Deceit & Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others

Allen Lane, London 2011

Emphasis as in the original

In his book Trivers relates an account of walking with his very young son and encountering a monkey. He deliberately emitted a false signal. The monkey became so agitated that he feared for the safety of his son. This incident made clear that among some animals, inducing neurosis by emitting ambiguous or conflicting signals will provoke a violent response.

Males protect the tribe

“That males [monkeys] more readily associate out-group members with negative stimuli, and in-group with positive, is consistent with work on humans in which men typically are relatively more prejudiced against out-group than in-group members.” Mahajan, N. et al. (2011) (p. 20)

Need for control

Having a degree of control over electric shocks reduces their impact. (p. 22)

Another struggle of opposites

Coevolutionary struggle between deceiver and deceived. Cyclic (but “no role is exclusive”). (p. 30)

‘Indiscriminate Eagerness’

“A predatory female of one species responds to the courtship flash of a male of another species by giving not her own flash of interest but that of a female of his species. He turns toward her, expecting to enjoy sex, and is seized and eaten instead. Sex is a very powerful force and especially in males often selects for ‘indiscriminate eagerness,’ which provides fertile ground for deception to parasitize.” (p. 38)

Neurotic Transfer

“We may blurt out the very truth we are trying to hide from others, as if involuntarily or contra-voluntarily.” Wegner 1989, 2009, Wegner et al 2004 (others probably recount attempts to consciously suppress thoughts, or the return of suppressed thoughts in dreams). (p. 57)

Black girls preferring White dolls etc.

“Black and white people are similar in their explicit tendency to value self over other, black indeed somewhat more strongly so. But when it comes to the implicit measures, whites respond even more strongly in their own favor than they do explicitly, while black – on average – prefer white over black, not by a huge margin but, nevertheless, they prefer other to self.” IAT for racial preferences: Nosek et al 2002. (pp. 64-65)

Black/White priming

“Priming black students for their ethnicity strongly impairs their performance on mental tests. This was indeed one of the first demonstrations of what are now hundreds of ‘priming’ effects. Black and white undergraduates at Stanford arrived in a lab to take a relatively difficult aptitude test. In one situation, the students were simply given the exams; in the other, each was asked to give a few personal facts, one of which was their own ethnicity. Black and white scored equally well with no prime. With a prime, white scores were slightly (but not significantly) better, while black scores plummeted by nearly half.” Effects of racial prime: Steele & Aronson 1995; Richeson & Shelton 2003. (p. 65)

Independent observation of Transduction

“Guilt and shame are feelings that are both produced by us and induced in us. Someone may try to make us feel guilty when there is no good reason to do so, and someone may also attempt to shame us.” (p. 88)

Huge genetic variation in brains. Inevitable racial differences

“It has also been known for some time that the brain is the most genetically active tissue in the human body. In other words, a higher percentage of genes are active in the brain than in all other tissues, almost twice as high as in the liver and in muscle, the nearest competitors. A good one-third of all genes are so-called housekeeping genes, useful in running most kinds of cells, so they are widely shared, but the brain is unique both in the total number of genes expressed and in the number of genes expressed there and nowhere else. By some estimates, more than half of all genes express theselves in the brain: that is, more than ten thousand genes. This means that genetic variation for mental and behavioral traits should be especially extensive and fine-grained in our species – contra decades of social science dogma. This includes, of course, such traits as degree of honesty and degree and structure of deceit and self-deception.” (p. 123)

Quoting Herbert Spencer

“The ultimate effect of shielding men from the effects of their folly is to fill the world with fools.” (p. 251)

Interesting references

DePaulo, B. M., Kashy, D. A., Kirkensol, S. E., Wyer, M. M. & Epstein, J. A. (1996) Lying in everyday life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70: 979-995.

DePaulo, B. M., & Kashy, D. A. (1998) Everyday lies in close and casual relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74: 63-79.

Egan, L. C., Santos, L. R. & Bloom, P. (2007) The origins of cognitive dissonance: evidence from children and monkeys. Psychological science 18: 978-983.

Gonsalves, B. & Paller, K. A. (2000) Neural events that underlie remembering something that never happened. Nature Neuroscience 3: 1316-1321.

Gonsalves, B., Reber, P. J., Gitelman, D. R., Parrish, T. B. & Mesulam, M. M. (2004) Neural evidence that vivid imagining can lead to to false remembering . Psychological Science 15: 655-660.

Grammer, K., Kruck, K., Juette, A., & Fink, B. (2000) Non-verbal behavior as courtship signals: the role of control and choice in selecting partners. Evolution and Human Behavior 21: 371-390.

Grammer, K., Renninger, L. A., & Fischer, B. (2004) Disco clothing, female sexual motivation, and relationship status: is she dressed to impress? Journal of Sex Research 41: 66-74.

Gur, R. & Sackeim, H. A. (1979) Self-deception: a concept in search of a phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37: 147-169.

Hamilton, W. D. (1964) The genetical evolution of social behaviour. Journal of Theoretical Biology 7: 1-52.

Kahneman, D., & Twersky, A (1996) On the reality of cognitive illusions. Psychological Review 103: 582-591.

Kassin, S. M. & Gudjonsson G. H. (2005) True crimes, false confession: why do innocent people confess to crimes they did not commit? Scientific American Mind 24-31.

Mahajan, N. et al. (2011) The evolution of intergroup bias: perceptions and attitudes in Rhesus Macaques. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 100: 387-405.

Miller, G., Tybur, J. M. & Jordan, B. D. (2007) Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human Behavior 28: 375-381.

Niederle, M. & Veterlund, L (2007) Do women shy away from competition? Do men compete too much? Quarterly Journal of Economics 122: 1067-1101.

Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R. & Greenwald, A. W.l (2002) Harvesting implicit group attitudes and beliefs from a demonstration website. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice 6: 101-115.

Peterson, J. B. et al. (2003) Self-deception and failure to modulate responses despite accruing evidence of error. Journal of Research in Personality 37: 205-223.

Platek, S. M. et al. (2004) Reactions to children’s faces: males are more affected by resemblance than females are, and so are their brains. Evolution and Human Behavior 25: 394-405.

Richeson, J. A. & Shelton, J. N. (2003) When prejudice does not pay: effects of interracial contact on executive function. Psychological Science 14: 287-290.

Steele, C. M. & Aronson, J. (1995) Stereotype threat and the intellectual performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69: 797-811.

Talwar, V., Murphy, S. M. & Lee, K. (2007) White lie-telling in children for politeness purposes. International Journal of Behavioral Development 31: 1-11.

Trivers, R. (1971) The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology 46: 35-57.

Trivers, R. (1972) Parental investment and sexual selection. Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man, 1871-1971, ed. Campbell, B. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.

Triosi, A. (2002) Displacement activities as a behavioral measure of stress in nonhuman primates and human subjects. Stress 5: 47-54.

Vandegrift, D. & Yavas, A. (2009) Men, women and competition: an experimental test of behavior. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 72: 554-570.

Vohs, K. D. & Schooler, J. W. (2008) The value of believing in free will: encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science 19: 49-54.

Wegner, D. M. (2009) How to think, say, or do precisely the worst thing for any occasion. Science 325: 48-50.

Wilson, A. E., Smith, M. D. & Ross, H. S. (2003) The nature and effects of young children’s lies. Social Development 12: 21-45.

Yang, Y. L. et al. (2007) Localisation of increased prefrontal white matter in pathological liars. British Journal of Psychiatry 190: 174-175.

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