Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
David Livingstone Smith
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Deceit, lying, and falsehoods lie at the very heart of our cultural heritage. Even the founding myth of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the story of Adam and Eve, revolves around a lie. Our seemingly insatiable appetite for stories of deception spans the extremes of culture from King Lear to Little Red Riding Hood, retaining a grip on our imaginations despite endless repetition. These tales of deception are so enthralling because they speak to something fundamental in the human condition. The ever-present possibility of deceit is a crucial dimension of all human relationships, even the most central: our relationships with our own selves.
Why We Lie elucidates the essential role that deception and self-deception have played in evolution and shows that the very structure of our minds has been shaped from our earliest beginnings by the need to deceive. Smith shows us how, by examining the stories we tell, the falsehoods we weave, and the unconscious signals we send out, we can learn much about ourselves and our minds.
brutally attacked and repeatedly stabbed while walking from the parking lot to her New York City apartment building. Her attacker returned three times during the thirty-five minutes between the first assault and the final, deadly stab, and although she screamed, “Oh, my God, he stabbed me. Please help me!” and later cried out “I’m dying!” not one of the thirty-eight people who observed the scene from their apartment windows bothered to call the police. Later, each of the witnesses said that they
chorus of approval. Thanks also to Leif Ottesen Kennair, Nina Strohminger, Irwin Silverman, Marilyn Taylor, Norrie Feinblatt, Kenneth J. Silver, and Felicia Sinusas. I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to Rob Haskell for his endless support, encouragement and stimulation, and sterling integrity. The many hours we have spent discussing unconscious communication and reassuring one another of our mutual sanity have been crucial to this book. Discussions with Steven Kercel about the mathematics
it answers. There is no principled explanation why these particular rules should be beneficial, why they should produce anxiety, or why a hypothetical death anxiety is the best explanation for deviations from them. In the absence of any real evidence that honoring the ground rules has any psychotherapeutic effect whatsoever, this “explanation” amounts to little more than piling one uncertainty on top of another. See Langs, R. Ground Rules in Psychotherapy and Counselling (London: Karnac, 1998).
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