Self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument.


It has been theorized that humans are susceptible to self-deception because most people have emotional attachments to beliefs, which in some cases may be irrational. Some evolutionary biologists, such as Robert Trivers, have suggested that deception plays a significant part in human behaviour, and in animal behavior, more generally speaking. It has been theorized that an instinct for "self"-deception can give a person a selective advantage, based on the rationale that if a person can believe their own "lie" (i.e., their presentation that is biased toward their own self-interest), the theory goes, they will consequently be better able to persuade others of its "truth."

This notion is based on the following logic. In humans, awareness of the fact that one is acting deceptively often leads to tell-tale signs of deception. Therefore, if self-deception enables someone to believe their distortions, they will not present such signs of deception and will therefore appear to be telling the truth.

It may also be argued that the ability to deceive, or self-deceive, is not the selected trait but a by-product of a more primary trait that is selected. Abstract thinking allows many evolutionary advantages such as more flexible, adaptive behaviors and innovation. Since a lie is an abstraction, the mental process of creating a lie can only occur in animals with enough brain complexity to permit abstract thinking.

ee also

*Affect display
*Cognitive dissonance
*Distancing language
*Double blind
*List of cognitive biases
*Point of no return
*Self propaganda
*Subjective validation
*True-believer syndrome
*Wishful thinking

External links

* [ Skeptic's Dictionary entry on self-deception]
* [ Arbinger Institute] - a consulting organisation based on Terry Warner's work on self-deception


* [ Leadership and Self Deception, by Arbinger Institute] - talks at length about self-deception and its implications for leaders - in personal and public life.

* [ Anatomy of Peace - Resolving the Heart of Conflict, by Arbinger Institute]


* [ "Teorema", Vol. XXVI/3, Monographic on Self-Deception: Conceptual Issues, Autumn 2007]
* [ "Behavioral and Brain Sciences", Vol. 20 (1), 1997] .
* [ "Philosophical Psychology", Vol. 20 (3), 2007]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • self-deception — [self′di sep′shən] n. the deceiving of oneself as to one s true feelings, motives, circumstances, etc.: also self deceit self deceiving adj …   English World dictionary

  • Self-deception — Self de*cep tion, n. Self deceit. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • self-deception — ► NOUN ▪ the action or practice of deceiving oneself into believing that a false or unfounded feeling, idea, or situation is true …   English terms dictionary

  • self-deception — N UNCOUNT Self deception involves allowing yourself to believe something about yourself that is not true, because the truth is more unpleasant. Human beings have an infinite capacity for self deception. Syn: self delusion …   English dictionary

  • self-deception — The motivated misapprehension of the facts of the case. This may include actively believing what is not true, and refusing to acknowledge a truth, in circumstances where without the motivation the truth would be obvious. The philosophical problem …   Philosophy dictionary

  • self-deception — noun (U) the act of making yourself believe something is true when it is not: He was unwilling to admit that the visionary idea was sheer self deception. self deceptive adjective …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • self-deception — self deceptive, adj. /self di sep sheuhn, self /, n. the act or fact of deceiving oneself. Also called self deceit /self di seet , self /. [1670 80] * * * …   Universalium

  • self-deception — self′ decep′tion n. the act or fact of deceiving oneself. Also called self′ deceit′ • Etymology: 1670–80 self′ decep′tive, adj …   From formal English to slang

  • self-deception — self de ception n [U] when you make yourself believe that something is true when it is not …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • self-deception — self de ception noun uncount the action of making yourself believe something good that is not true, especially something about yourself …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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