Theory of Self-Deception
who simply denies the facts is most certainly behaving unreasonably
Bochum's philosophers Prof. Dr. Albert Newen and Christoph Michel
expound that in some cases it may be useful to deceive yourself. The
self-deception can be an important motivating factor and not entirely
lacking reason. The reason may be locally restricted, however basic
strategies of rational evaluation processes remain intact. The researchers
published their work in the September 2010 issue of the international
specialist journal Consciousness & Cognition.
as good as you think you are
is a common everyday phenomenon. Someone who sees the facts, but refuses
to admit them, is generally described as unreasonable - wrongly, say
Prof. Newen and Christoph Michel. Because self-deception can be an
important factor in keeping up motivation. For example: if someone
is not very good at maths, but convinces himself he is, this false
self image can provide important motivation to prepare intensively
for a maths test. The hard facts on the other hand, for example, if
his teacher tells him quite plainly that even if he works really hard
he won't get more than a D+, would destroy his motivation.
of reality is damaging
self-deception can also lead to a massive distortion of reality. If
a father e.g. puts his 16-year-old son's declining school marks down
to his puberty and persuades himself that they will get better again
by themselves, but ignores the fact that his son is skipping days
of school, coming home drunk every weekend and hiding alcohol in his
room , the self-deception no longer has a positive effect. In this
case, it leads to a distortion of reality, which becomes harmful for
the self-deceiver who is interested in the welfare of his son.
is locally restricted
two examples show that the answer to the question of whether self-deception
is unreasonable is not as clear as it seems at first glance",
says Prof. Newen. "Self-deception is not always unreasonable,
but is an essential factor for stabilising motivation. Indeed, the
strategy of self-deception is even mainly based on rational consideration
processes which, however, no longer work in the usual way in relation
to certain facts." The researchers therefore do not see the essence
of self-deception at all as a breakdown of reason, but merely as its
local failure in narrowly enclosed areas, whereby, however, basic
strategies of rational evaluation processes remain intact.
from recent theories
theory of self-deception is clearly distinguished from those theories
according to which self-deception only consists of my saying something
other than I actually think (self-deception is neither just insincere
speech nor a comment which is not to be taken seriously). Self-deception
is, on the other hand, also not the same as one-sided beliefs caused
by biased attention processes ("biased belief formation"):
because the latter lead to certain obvious facts no longer being available
to a person. They are not registered at all, while a self-deceiver
registers the facts, but then "refuses to admit them". For
this purpose, they are reinterpreted in the light of the viewpoint
he is trying to safeguard, whereby pseudo-rational processes play
a primary role.
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