Notes of Interest from Robert Trivers,
Deceit & Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others
Allen Lane, London 2011
Emphasis as in the original
In his book Trivers relates an account of walking with his very young son and encountering a monkey. He deliberately emitted a false signal. The monkey became so agitated that he feared for the safety of his son. This incident made clear that among some animals, inducing neurosis by emitting ambiguous or conflicting signals will provoke a violent response.
“That males [monkeys] more readily associate out-group members with negative stimuli, and in-group with positive, is consistent with work on humans in which men typically are relatively more prejudiced against out-group than in-group members.” Mahajan, N. et al. (2011) (p. 20)
Having a degree of control over electric shocks reduces their impact. (p. 22)
Coevolutionary struggle between deceiver and deceived. Cyclic (but “no role is exclusive”). (p. 30)
“A predatory female of one species responds to the courtship flash of a male of another species by giving not her own flash of interest but that of a female of his species. He turns toward her, expecting to enjoy sex, and is seized and eaten instead. Sex is a very powerful force and especially in males often selects for ‘indiscriminate eagerness,’ which provides fertile ground for deception to parasitize.” (p. 38)
“We may blurt out the very truth we are trying to hide from others, as if involuntarily or contra-voluntarily.” Wegner 1989, 2009, Wegner et al 2004 (others probably recount attempts to consciously suppress thoughts, or the return of suppressed thoughts in dreams). (p. 57)
“Black and white people are similar in their explicit tendency to value self over other, black indeed somewhat more strongly so. But when it comes to the implicit measures, whites respond even more strongly in their own favor than they do explicitly, while black – on average – prefer white over black, not by a huge margin but, nevertheless, they prefer other to self.” IAT for racial preferences: Nosek et al 2002. (pp. 64-65)
“Priming black students for their ethnicity strongly impairs their performance on mental tests. This was indeed one of the first demonstrations of what are now hundreds of ‘priming’ effects. Black and white undergraduates at Stanford arrived in a lab to take a relatively difficult aptitude test. In one situation, the students were simply given the exams; in the other, each was asked to give a few personal facts, one of which was their own ethnicity. Black and white scored equally well with no prime. With a prime, white scores were slightly (but not significantly) better, while black scores plummeted by nearly half.” Effects of racial prime: Steele & Aronson 1995; Richeson & Shelton 2003. (p. 65)
“Guilt and shame are feelings that are both produced by us and induced in us. Someone may try to make us feel guilty when there is no good reason to do so, and someone may also attempt to shame us.” (p. 88)
“It has also been known for some time that the brain is the most genetically active tissue in the human body. In other words, a higher percentage of genes are active in the brain than in all other tissues, almost twice as high as in the liver and in muscle, the nearest competitors. A good one-third of all genes are so-called housekeeping genes, useful in running most kinds of cells, so they are widely shared, but the brain is unique both in the total number of genes expressed and in the number of genes expressed there and nowhere else. By some estimates, more than half of all genes express theselves in the brain: that is, more than ten thousand genes. This means that genetic variation for mental and behavioral traits should be especially extensive and fine-grained in our species – contra decades of social science dogma. This includes, of course, such traits as degree of honesty and degree and structure of deceit and self-deception.” (p. 123)
“The ultimate effect of shielding men from the effects of their folly is to fill the world with fools.” (p. 251)
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