Review: The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life

The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life
The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life by Robert Trivers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“We deceive ourselves the better to deceive others” (p3). Why do we lack self-knowledge and how does that affect us and other animals? Biologist Trivers treats this subject from many different sides; the biological and the personal-takes are the best. And his bashing of social sciences that don’t incorporate biology, or stories of the author cursing at himself are amusing.

The title is based on Proverb (14:8): “The wisdom of the prudent is to know their own way but the folly of fools is deceit” (p298)

p16 On self-inflation, Epley & Whitchurch (2008):

Participants were more likely to recognize an attractively enhanced version of their own face out of a lineup as their own, and they identified an attractively enhanced version of their face more quickly in a lineup of distracter faces

p33 Interesting paper on frequency dependent selction in arms race between cuckoos and hosts; Rapid decline of host defences in response to reduced cuckoo parasitism: Behavioural flexibility of reed warblers in a changing world

p68 “scientists have created false memories in mice experimentally”- Ramirez et al (2013, Science): Creating a false memory in the hippocampus. Write up in The Guardian.

p90-91 “Natural variation in intelligence, corrected for age, is positively correlated with deception (…) Until shown otherwise, we should assume that the intellectually gifted are often especially prone to deceit and self-deception”.

p100 “There appears to be no difference between the sexes in ability to recognize whether children are the offspring of a given parent” From Daly & Wilson (1982) Whom Are Newborn Babies Said to Resemble?

p132 Musak produced an increase in output of an important immune chemical by 14%, while jazz did so by only 7%. No sound had no effect, and simple noise had a 20% negative effect. Charnetski & Brennan (1998)

p205 “as has been noted, the space program shares with gothic cathedrals the fact that each is designed to defy gravity for no useful purpose except to aggrandize humans.”

p281 Like in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (see my review), Richard Sosis’ work is refered to; “In each year, the religious sect is four times as likely to survive into the next year as the secular.”

p314 Good quote by John Kenneth Galbraith: “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gest busy on the proof.”. Trivers adds: “This is perhaps especially true in academia”
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