The Many Ways We Lie to Ourselves

Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.Science of Choice

Posted Aug 29, 2017 on psychologytoday.com

Everyone is in denial about something. Self-deception, or lying to yourself, is simply a motivated false belief. False beliefs can satisfy important psychological needs of the individual (e.g., confidence in one’s abilities). The following are some of the lies we tell ourselves.

1. Ignorance is bliss.

One of the most difficult problems in sustaining goals is how to persist in the face of negative feedback. Strategic ignorance can help to achieve persistence. How? Avoid information sources that could demotivate you (Benabou and Tirole 2002). For example, someone who says “till death do us part” during the marriage ceremony need not be aware of the divorce statistics.

2. Reality denial.

Denial is a psychological defense we all use against external realities to create a false sense of security. Denial can be a protective defense in the face of unbearable news (e.g., cancer diagnosis). In denial, people say to themselves, “This is not happening.” For instance, alcoholics insist they have no drinking problem.

3. Overconfidence.

Overconfident individuals think that they are blessed, that they are well liked by others, and that they’ll come out on top. (As the bumper stickers state: “Jesus loves you, but I’m his favorite.”) For example, 90 percent of all drivers think they are above average, and 94 percent of professors at a large university were found to believe that they are better than the average professor. Unrealistic optimismcan have significant health consequences. Psychologist Loren Nordgren (2009) found that among a group of people trying to quit smoking, the ones who gave especially high ratings to their own willpower were most likely to fail.

4. Self-handicapping.

This behavior could be considered the opposite of overconfidence. If a person is uncertain about her true ability and afraid to find out what her true ability is, she might refrain from doing the work that might reveal her as having a low ability. In such a case, a successful performance could be attributed to skill, while an unsuccessful performance could be externalized as due to the lack of good preparation.

5. How I like myself to be seen.

People like to be perceived favorably, by themselves and by others, but some personality traits that carry a high social value (altruism and fair-mindedness) are not directly observable to outsiders. Our actions, however, offer a window into our personality and tastes (Benabou and Tirole, 2004). For example, giving money to a panhandler, or changing Facebook profile photos to honor the victims of some new tragedy.

6. Cherry-picking data.

People tend to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. For instance, people require more information to accept an undesirable idea than they do for a desirable one.

7. Sour grapes.

In Aesop’s fable, the fox tries hard to get his hands on a tasty vine of grapes, but fails in all of his attempts to acquire the grapes; at which point, the fox convinces himself that he really didn’t want those grapes that badly after all. In the presence of dissonance (awareness of different beliefs), the individual feels psychologically uncomfortable and attempts to reduce it. The motive is to maintain a positive self-image.

8. Me and others.

Psychologists use the term attributions (or causes) for people’s explanations of the events in their lives. We tend to attribute our success to our enduring character traits, and our failures to unfortunate circumstances. For example, when we say, “You failed, because you did not try hard enough; I failed, because I had a headache from staying up all night with my son.” An alcoholic may be happy to tell himself he “just cannot help it” in order to have an excuse for persisting.

The key aspect of these lies is that people treat (or search for) evidence in a motivationally biased way. Self-deception can be like a drug, numbing you from harsh reality, or turning a blind eye to the tough matter of gathering evidence and thinking (Churchland, 2013). As Voltaire commented long ago, “Illusion is the first of all pleasure.”

References

Benabou, R. and Tirole, J. (2004). Willpower and personal rules. Journal of Political Economy, 112(4): 848-886.

Churchland P. (2013) Touching A Nerve. W.W. Norton & Company

Elster J (2009) Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press

Gloman R et al. (2016) The Preference for Belief Consonance, Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 30, Number 3—Pages 165–188

Nordgren, L. F., Harreveld, F. V., Pligt, J. V. D., (2009) The Restraint Bias: How the Illusion of Self-Restraint Promotes Impulsive Behavior. Psychological Science, 20(12), 1523-1528.

About the Author

Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D.,

Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D., is an associate professor emeritus of health economics of addiction at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

In Print:

Addiction: A Behavioral Economic Perspective

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    The Nigerian internet bastardization of feminism

    When I wrote about feminism it wasn’t what I see some people do today. 
    Everything I’ve written on and supported have been through careful analysis, deep thinking and reflection after careful research and study. I used to have a large library of books and archives of documents on subjects which I espouse. But today, it seems a lot of people just wake up with their personal issues and find one “ism” to pour it into. When they open their minds to express themselves, you pick nothing intellectual, not one thing to praise as truly a deduction of a well bred mind. And this is wrong. The resultant effect of this is the pure bastardization of a noble cause, of which I am hurt to see evolve into a game of swine battling.
    This is not feminism! Give it a new name.
    Feminism is a cause that seeks the sociopolitical development of the woman. That a woman, like the male counterpart is of her basic right to be treated fairly, just and equitably and that every form of discrimination against persons because of their sex is a primitive wrong that must be done away with.
    What some people do these days on the internet isn’t feminism; at least the one I learned of by thorough reading and research.
    So many people with personal issues are hiding behind the mask of feminism to make a market-square mockery of a beautiful selfless, humanitarian and intellectual cause. We can understand why:
    In psychology, Sigmund Freud the legendary psychologist highlighted what is called “DEFENSE MECHANISM” in psychology. It is simply ways or forms which the unconscious mind expresses itself and it is unknown by the individual. One of such is called “displacement”.
    Put briefly in a lay sense, displacement is when a person channels their bad experiences, frustrations, anger, etc on another object. It is what happens when a person hits a knee on a chair and someone that is behind them gently collides into them, and then they explode at the person, when actually it is the chair they hit their knees into that is the cause of such frustration and explosion at another object. It is another form of aggression transfer.
    It is not unnatural for  females who have suffered abused, rape, unhappy marriages, disappointments from men to unconsciously channel their frustrations and anger into what they regard as feminism. Even though they’re not aware that their subconscious mind is greatly wounded and needs healing. But many of them may deny this and still put up reasons to debunk this. But the truth is that deep down in their subconscious mind, they’re in chaos and they need help and not to assume they’re pursuing a cause. No they are not championing a cause, they’re displaced individuals. And it is not their fault and I don’t blame them. However, I can help if they desire real help. I am gifted in that and I’ve helped so many people heal their minds and pains and put them back to peace and flourish.
    How do you know an individual that is displaced or hiding behind an “ism” to pour out their frustrations? I’ll give a few
    – You get uncontrollably angry and explosive when someone does not agree with your point of view (POV)
    – You think that everyone who disagrees with you is a misogynist, slave or what have you. 
    – you want to throw your standards, which is mostly drawn from bad past experiences as a national standard of the private lives of others
    – You’re happiest and feel well achieved when you vilify others, bully them or what have you if they don’t agree with you or critique you. And of course find great comfort in those who masturbate your ego.
    If you cannot stand anyone criticising your “ism” you are a problem and not a solution. Getting bitter by dissenting views and voices is a sign you’re not a thinker or intellectual revolutionary. You are yet to mature mentally and otherwise.
    A person who is offering knowledge, well reasoned thinking does not have to be bitter. If you’re bitter all the time, it is a sign you’re mentally or emotionally not very well, albeit you look physically fine.   It is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re human and can break down or get out of touch sometimes.
    Well, I can help anyone in need of counselling and mental healing. I won’t judge you, I understand you. Be good, be humane and less bitter.

    Gender 1(1): what really does it mean? What qualifies a person as a man, woman or neither?

    In brief view, we shall examine the following:

    – Sex and Gender
    – Gender stereotype and roles
    – The origins of gender stereotype

    Gender: WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?

    Gender refers to the socially constructed categorisation of individuals into masculine and feminine. Unlike gender which is a social constraint, SEX on the other hand refers to the categorisation of an individual on the basis of the genetic materials they produce during sexual reproduction or intercourse. Masculine and feminine are gender categories, while male and female are sex categories. Thus, sexes are biological categorisation of individuals based on their reproductive responsibilities and capabilities and gender are social categorisation of males and females into defined roles and responsibilities. Further differentiation of gender and sex can be broken thus

    Sex:

    Men have the XY chromosomes while women have the XX chromosomes
    Women menstruate, men do not
    Women have vaginas, men have penises
    Women develop breasts, men do not.
    Men have testicles, women do not.

    Gender:

    In most places in the world, men do not do babysitting; it is presumed a female responsibility.
    In many places, women wear high heels, long nail, and skirts, men do not.
    In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive and in many other places they are not allowed to participate in politics and certain trade.

    THE CONCEPT OF SEX: What defines an individual as a male or female or neither?

    Members of species of living organisms across all domains are divided into 2 or more categories and it is based on the complimentary materials they are capable of reproducing during sexual reproduction. Typically, species of living organisms have the male and female sexes. The female sex is defined as the individual who produces the larger gamete, that is, the one which is capable of bearing offspring. Sex is primarily based on the reproductive capability of individual specie.

    In plant kingdoms, species are mostly hermaphrodite that is, they bear both the male and female reproductive capabilities. In other cases some individual species bear single gametes the case may be. However, in the animal kingdom, sexes differ in broadways across species. In mammals for example in humans, sex is determined by the X and Y chromosomes (XX for females, XY for males), thus making the sex in human a dichotomous one. All individuals in the human species have at least one X chromosome. The Y chromosome is shorter than the X.

    GENDER STEREOTYPE AND ROLES

    Gender roles and stereotype is more or less a cultural dictum of modalities, etiquettes, instructions, mannerism, responsibilities, etc. which men and women are expected of. Without gender, there cannot be any gender role and stereotype. Gender stereotype are laid down social manuscripts which men and women are required to correspond with. They are culturally defined social standards of relations between male and female. What is obtained as a gender acceptable norm in one society may not be obtained in the another, however, gender stereotype and roles are universal and are culturally distinct from the other and most times very similar.

    In Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive, engage in active politics or be ambitions, which are culturally induced, is not obtainable in Western societies where such perceptions are frown at. Thus, gender stereotypes and roles are culturally induced standards of behaviour and relations for the sexes. If individuals put up behaviours that do not confirm to these perceived standards of their gender, the social consequences maybe unpleasant. For example, in Africa where nail painting is a feminine fashion, a man who paints his nails may get a backlash and negative label from those around him.

    Generally, gender stereotype cuts across cultures and domains. In a study by Williams and Best (1982) across 30 countries, stereotyping of females and males are pervasive. Men are generally believed to be more dominant, independent, aggressive and achievement-oriented while females are believed to be nurturing, affiliative, sensitive, gentle, etc. In another study by Williams and Best (1989), men and women who lived in highly developed countries perceived themselves as being more similar than their counterparts in less developed countries. A simple explanation for this is that women are more educated and independent in developed countries than their counterparts in less developed countries. Also, respondents in Christian societies were more likely to perceive similarities between the sexes than those from Muslim countries.

    One may wonder: HOW and WHERE do these gender stereotypes come from?

    Gender role learning and subsequently stereotype are rooted in socialization. Socialization is simply the process where the norms, beliefs, culture, perceptions, sentiments, etc of a social enclave are passed onto their members. The primary agents of socialization of gender role and subsequently, gender stereotype are: FAMILY, EDUCATION, PEER GROUP AND THE MASS MEDIA. Each of these agents services the commonly perceived gender roles and images in the minds of the members of a given society, thus setting standards and expectations of what is generally perceived as suitable for male and female. Other agents of socialization are religious organizations, social gatherings, workplace, etc.

    Repeated exposure to cues from these agents of socialization elicits the individual’s perception that what he or she defines as the right or suitable gender attitude is natural, but unknown to him or her, he or she is simply a product of social conditioning. Thus, the socially accepted standards of behaviours and roles for a gender is nothing more than indoctrinated perception from social construction as a result of our repetitive interaction with the above agents of socialization. Thus, gender role can be defined as set of behavioural and social norms that are considered as generally appropriate for a man or woman. A typical example in Africa is that it is inappropriate for a woman to make passes at a man, specifically, to chase after a man. The people in these societies adhere to this and see such conception as a natural standard for gender interpersonal relationships, but these are individuals unknown to them are merely acting on a false sense of natural dictum rather than socialized sentiments.

    Stereotypes generally come with negativity. The negative stereotype that emanates from gender leads to sexism- the discrimination of a person based on their gender. Women are mostly are on the receiving end of the negativity of gender. These stereotypes have evolved from the old type typical backlash of women as being less smart, less competent, less responsible, and less creative than men to the modern form of sexism which merely deals on the denial of sexism. Although in less develop countries in Africa and the middle East in particular, some these old type of sexism persists, like women being refused into political participation, jobs, violence and abuse. In places like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, women are objectified as sex objects and household pets. The recognition for their talents, capabilities and roles outside the home and marriage is often frowning at violently opposed.

    Voodoo Christianity

    Sometime ago, some religitard girl came to my inbox and started casting demon from me. She started attacking imaginary demons to fly out from me. That fire should catch my eyes, thunder should make me fall from behind my screen. It was in the night she sent these messages. She said that night, that God will strike me down dead except I accept Jesus. At the same time she thinks she is different from Boko Haram and that in short, I am the Devil.

    The next day around 11 in the morning, she sent me a message checking whether I am still alive. I responded with a message that she should grow up and that her evil fantasies have exposed her mind as the surest evidence that religion gives people evil obsessions especially towards other life forms. That time I began writing against religion newly.

    This good Christian woman, Damian Barbara began cursing me and my family- someone who I’ve never known anywhere except on Facebook. The hate was passionate and truly had it been her sky daddy answered any prayers, that woman’s faith- the arrogant certainty that her God will strike me dead would have been a testimony in her church and elsewhere.

    To sum up the inanity, she added that she’s doing all this because of the Love of God to save my soul. “Cursing me, wishing me dead, threatening me and insulting my family is what you call the love of God and gospel?” I was finally enraged, because at first I was laughing and responding with sarcasm.

    “If what you did here is what the love of God is about”. “I don’t need such love and may I never love anyone in this manner”, I said.

    Why the tale?

    The truth is, majority of the Christian population in Nigeria are this way. If you’re a Nigerian Christian and you haven’t prayed to your imaginary doodle to strike someone or punish anyone for you, then you’re a Nigerian Christian in the 1960s backwards. For these ones which I know of in this my age, you people are Boko haram with no guns and bombs. You and Abubakar are of the same sentiments and mental projections.

    You don’t have to behead people to know you’re like him, but as long as you harbour malicious content in your imaginations towards another especially a non believer like me, you and Shekau are of the same mental class.

    For example, if I should die now, a great number of believers will partake on the testimony that God killed me. Which God? Their God certainly. And that is kind of testimonies they celebrate in Nigerian churches- that their witch uncles, parents, step siblings, colleagues, etc who wanted to steal their destiny or what have you fell down and died because of their prayers. Yet they forget that they live in an economy that kills them slowly, that’s why life expectancy is very low, because religion, like a virus, it kills the mind of its host.

    The Psychology of Social media 1 : Why are some people aggressive on social media?

    Screenshot_2016-04-18-09-50-35

    It is not new to the hearing that the social media is a sort of beehive for all manner of individuals. Individuals, as we knnow, are baggage of different personalities.

    In psychology, personality is defined as the configuration of distinctive characteristics, behavior, traits, attitudes etc of an individual which are considerably persistent, distinguishing the individual from another.

    People are on social media for a variety of reasons. As the reasons differ, so do their awareness of such reasons. Some are on social media as a result of boredom, stress, depression, or other terrifying personal issues like sadness, self-esteem, tragedy etc.

    That is not to say all are on social media because they have problems to deal with. We have people on social media purely for the “socialness” of it; for marketing, promotion, networking, exposure or for getting information of latest events. Social psychologists have identified the use of social media as a form of hobby and addiction.

    Humans always drag pieces of their personalities and well being into any social environment. As such, we see the mad, insolent, bitter, smiling face, the carefree, the grandeur, just to name a handful.

    One set of people I do want to draw attention to are the conflict personalities. Observable on social media are those who have hard time keeping an amicable relationship with others

    This is very typical on social media platforms like Facebook, where people interact in a more personal context. Such individuals exhibit behaviours of unnecessary insolence, bitterness, anger and intolerance of opinion of others. They find it difficult to maintain a decent conversation or disagreement with others on social media. They often have no difficulty in the use of abusive and derogatory words.

    What possibly could be the cause of this?

    The reasons are many but top on the list is mental health. Yes, it takes a mentally unhealthy person to have a consistent relationship of conflicts. Fighting and quarreling consistently on social media is a clear sign that one is not socially and mentally healthy.

    Poor mental health is a term people interprete as some kind of break down of brain functions. Not necessarily is the case. One can have good cognitive skills, verbal and articulatory processes but a very terrible social life. Neuroticism can be an instance.

    Neuroticism is a disorder characterized by excessive anxiety. Neurotic individuals are normal people with normal lives. But what is not normal about them is their response to issues. It is difficult to be neurotic and maintain healthy relationships. This pervades into the social media. Neuroticism comes with the gift of temperamental imbalance, accompanied by undisciplined emotions such as carelessness of the tongue, rude remarks, fighting etc. In short, if you’re neurotic, you’ll be blocking people indiscriminately on social media.

    Neurotic personalities on social media have a hard time communicating their opinions, disagreements on subjects with others amicably. Their aggression poisons everything.

    Another reason some exhibit behaviours of conflict is due to personal stressors. This could be marital stress, job stress, family stress etc. These stressors may invariably evolve into frustration. People who are unhappy about their lives will unconsciously project their unhappiness and bitterness at others.

    Research has shown that frustration can increase the probability of an aggressive response. This is very imminent when the frustration is unpleasant.

    However, this is subject to individual differences. Some people have a disciplined ego which keeps their emotions from wandering bitterly against others. But others don’t.

    Self-esteem is another factor. Individuals with low self esteem in real life often resort to social media as a form of compensation for their self esteem and other issues in real life. They may resort to the use of phantom names and photos as a form of anonymity, where they can confidently express themselves or hit on others without fear of retribution- something they are unable to do in real life. Thus, social media is a means for role play for such individuals. It is unsurprising to find that a lot of folks who display unnecessary insolence and tongue-lashing roles on social media are actually shy people who barely can confidently look people in the eyes to speak.

    On the physiological point of view, aggressive behaviour whether physical or verbal can be influenced by certain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. For example serotonin a neurotransmitter that plays a role in inhibiting impulsive aggression, when disrupted, aggressive behaviour becomes increasingly rampant. Research have shown that violent criminals have particularly low levels of serotonin. They same can be said of neurotic individuals. And so, when such individuals come on social media, their physiological disruption in these chemicals like serotonin, will naturally make them act impulsively aggressive at others when not necessary.

    Sometimes when you see a person who is consistent at being unnecessarily bitter, confrontational, angry at others not only on social media but in real life, it may be they are passing through a lot which unconsciously project their nasty attitudes. In cases as this, they are to be understood and be patient with. The use of positive words and appealing to their conscious mind that they are not behaving well can be a good way to sort things out.

    Recommending they see a psychologist is the best option. Resorting to negative responses do not solve the problem.

    However, in cases where the individual is a pure sociopath- individuals who are sadistic, unconcerned about the emotions of others, the best is often to completely avoid them.

    Imoh Son Of David is the author of the best selling book The Ultimate Curse on Mankind.

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