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Why We Lie

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  • David Smith
    I thought that list members might be interested to know that the May issue of the popular science magazine Seed includes an extract from my forthcoming book
    Message 1 of 2 , May 5, 2004
      I thought that list members might be interested to know that the May issue of the popular science magazine Seed includes an extract from my forthcoming book Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind.   The book will be published by St. Martin's Press in July.
       
      David 
    • Ian Pitchford
      Why We Lie The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind by David Livingstone Smith St. Martin s Press, 2004 Review by Alex Sager on Jul 30th
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 3, 2004
        Why We Lie
        The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
        by David Livingstone Smith
        St. Martin's Press, 2004

        Review by Alex Sager on Jul 30th 2004

        David Livingston Smith's Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and
        the Unconscious Mind follows in the tradition of Steven Pinker's How the
        Mind Works, Matt Ridley's The Origins of Virtue and Robert Wright's The
        Moral Animal. Like those books, Why We Lie is well-written and likely to be
        embraced by fans of evolutionary psychology (as the blurbs on the back of
        the hardcover suggest). Readers of these works will find much of his
        material familiar. Unfortunately, for those who have a sympathetic, but more
        skeptical view towards evolutionary psychology, it will seem a wildly
        speculative and generally unsatisfactory mishandling of a potentially
        fascinating topic.

        The book's central idea is that we possess a "Machiavellian module" that
        enables us to deceive others and detect deception. This module takes its
        name from the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis popularized by the
        Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiten's anthology Machiavellian Intelligence. The
        Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis draws on research on non-human
        primates' social relationships, which often involve deception. It speculates
        that brain size and high intelligence are caused by the selective pressures
        of social competition, rather than the more traditional belief that it came
        from tool use and other aspects of the physical environment. If this is
        true, it is quite possible that our minds have adapted to commonly
        reoccurring social problems faced by our Pleistocene ancestors. According to
        Smith, this module operates unconsciously, with the paradoxical consequence
        that we often deceive ourselves about our deceptions.

        Full text
        http://mentalhelp.net/books/books.php?type=de&id=2262

        Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
        by David Smith
        Hardcover: 256 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 8.75 x 1.00 x 6.00
        Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (July 1, 2004) ISBN: 0312310390
        AMAZON - US
        http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312310390/darwinanddarwini/
        AMAZON - UK
        http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312310390/humannaturecom/

        Editorial Reviews

        From Publishers Weekly

        According to Smith, deception lies so deeply at the heart of our existence
        that
        we often cannot distinguish truth from lies in our everyday lives.
        Deception,
        he writes, is pervasive as we manage how others perceive us, from using
        cosmetics to lying on a job application; it is "more often spontaneous and
        unconscious than cynical and coldly analytical." In this superficial
        investigation of the biology and psychology of lying, Smith, a professor of
        philosophy and cofounder and director of the Institute for Cognitive Science
        and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of New England, tries to
        demonstrate that humans are hardwired to deceive: we do so just as frogs and
        lizards engage in mimicry, to insure the survival of the species. Unlike
        other
        animals, however, we have the capacity to deceive ourselves as well as
        others,
        since our mendacity is embedded not only in our evolutionary past but also
        in
        our unconscious. Smith tells us nothing that hasn't been covered by other
        writers in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. Moreover, his study is
        really two books-one on evolutionary biology and the other on psychology and
        the unconscious-and the lack of transition makes it hard to tell what one
        really has to do with the other.
        Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All
        rights reserved.

        Review
        "Why We Lie is written with snap, panache, and the sort of insights that
        stop
        you in your tracks. Its subject--deception, trickery, pulling a fast one,
        conning other humans and conning ourselves--is critical to understanding the
        evolution of the human mind. Getting a handle on deception is crucial to
        understanding the self with which you and I live from second to second every
        minute of our conscious and our dreaming lives."
        --Howard Bloom, author of Global Brain and The Lucifer Principle

        "David Smith has pulled off a beaut. Freud, Darwin, Machiavelli (and, oh
        yes,
        Liz Smith) meet around the poker table of life. Why We Lie is a wonderfully
        blended cluster of arguments to support the painful truth that we are a
        species
        whose skills at deceiving others is matched only by our ability to deceive
        ourselves."
        --Arthur S. Reber, author of The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology and The
        New
        Gambler's Bible

        "Self-deception is one of the most powerful ideas in psychology, indeed, in
        human affairs, and David Smith's Why We Lie is an excellent synthesis of
        this
        crucial topic. The biology is up-to-date and accurate, the psychological
        implications are clearly worked out, and the writing is inviting and
        accessible."
        --Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Blank Slate and The Language
        Instinct


        From the Back Cover
        "Written with snap, panache, and the sort of insights that stop you in your
        tracks."
        - Howard Bloom, author of Global Brain


        About the Author
        David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D., is currently a professor of philosophy and
        co-founder and director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and
        Evolutionary
        Psychology at the University of New England. He has published widely in the
        areas of deception and self-deception. A longtime professor in London, he
        now
        lives in Scarborough, Maine.


        Book Description
        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. We have been talking, writing and singing about
        deception ever since Eve told God, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 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 very own
        selves.

        Now, for the first time, philosopher and evolutionary psychologist David
        Livingstone Smith elucidates the essential role that deception and
        self-deception have played in human--and animal--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 that by examining the stories we tell, the
        falsehoods we weave, and the unconscious signals we send out, we can learn
        much
        about ourselves and how our minds work.

        Readers of Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker will find much to intrigue them
        in
        this fascinating book, which declares that our extraordinary ability to
        deceive
        others--and even our own selves--"lies" at the heart of our humanity.
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