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Self-Deception as Self-Signalling: a Model and Experimental

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The concept that “the one person we should never lie to is ourselves” is a form of absurdity through the human mind. As Samuel Johnson once said, “almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we can not resemble.” The ability to contradict or deceit oneself, aside from logical counterargument that is backed up with reasonable evidence, is known as self-deception. Many people are liable of self deception in the occasion when a person does not receive a desirable outcome. We tend to rationalize with ourselves and settle with what we have rather than what we crave. Self-deception, a form of nature found in all human affairs, has a negative effect on the way people perceive reality. Many will find a void to escape the reality of what is happening and they will lie to themselves when given a reason. However, people will tend to find evidence to support their belief of the occuring self deception. In the 1984 psychology experiment by Quattrone and Tversky, the psychologists gathered a group of 38 student participants in which they tested them on the “psychological and medical aspects of athletics” A. While they were being timed, the researchers manipulated the participants into thinking that the amount of time they kept their arms in cold water determined their health status. By allowing this, the researchers would conclude whether or not they were reaching for a desirable outcome.

Consequently, they were asked to conduct several physical activities, such as biking and jogging, to portray the idea that they were being involved in the athletic experiment. Later, the researchers informed the participants on life expectancy, and told them that type I heart consisted of a shorter life span which included heart diseases and that people who have a longer life span with a lower risk of obtaining heart diseases have type II heart. Later, the participants were divided in two groups. One of them was told that the higher resistance to cold water after exercise meant that a person had type II heart. On the other hand, the other half was told that lower resistance to cold water exposure meant that a person had type I heart. After submerging their arms one more, the participants were asked whether or not they deliberately left their arms in the cold water because it determined their health status. Nine out of the thirty-eight participants confessed to being guilty of self-deceiving themselves after the psychologists told them that the water temperature stayed the same throughout the whole experiment. Based on these results, the participants chose to deceive and obligate and force their minds into thinking that their resistance to different water temperatures determined their health status.

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By conducting the experiment, the researchers were able to examine the different types of approaches people are willing to go in order to self deceive themselves. People are willing to ignore their current deception and think that their incorrect belief is ultimately true, then overlook and reject the truth. The idea of self-deception can be habitually encountered through different variations of the benefit of the doubt. A woman, who was considered an alcoholic and a drinker, was subjected to attend conferences to relieve her addictions. However, after she went to the drinking seminar, she refused to go to the smoking one, which was a result of the lady self deceiving herself. The woman essentially refused to attend a second seminar regarding her smoking addiction because she did not want to face the reality behind finding out the truth. The woman selectively choose the information she preferred to retain rather than “avoid[ed] learning details that she may not want to know”. What if the deceiver was in a conscious state in which they knew the decisions they were making? Mele argues that individuals have the capability to admit they are deceiving themselves but will refrain from their initial assumption and will not give into issues they are most passionate about. Individuals will self deceive themselves in fear of panic or anxiety and will commonly lose self control when the feeling of ardor rises above them.

Therefore, Barnes discusses the issue that self deceivers “can, with effort, in some circumstances, resist their biases” in which “they can be criticized for lacking courage in situations where having is neither superhumanly difficult nor costly”. The lack of restraint that individuals have encountered through various forms of situations has become inevitably unaware to the human mind and their conscience. At the end of the day, deception will portray as an authoritative decision in our lives. We can spend all day saying we look better and smarter than everyone else or that our political party can do better but that will only dig into the problem and situation even more.


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