Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others Hardcover – 6 Oct 2011
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This is a remarkable book, by a uniquely brilliant scientist...arguably his most provocative and interesting idea so far...a pleasure to read. Strongly recommended. (Richard Dawkins)
A powerful book: an essential tool for anyone who wants to understand the patterns of human history and religion, and to try to counter their own unconscious biases (Peter Forbes Independent)
Provocative and wide-ranging...Deceit and Self-Deception has broad appeal and a well-structured narrative...[it] conveys a powerful and focused message (Stuart West Nature)
A remarkable book...Great books contain important new ideas, and this book is no exception...Striking observations and new twists on old themes are packed into every chapter...entertaining and accessible (William von Hippel, Psychologist, University of Queensland)
A startlingly original and important book (Richard Wrangham)
Admirable breadth, clarity and ambition (Julian Baggini Science Focus)
About the Author
Robert Trivers is one of the leading figures pioneering the field of sociobiology. He received his bachelors and PhD from Harvard University. He has been on the faculty at Harvard, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Rutgers University.
'Trivers ranks as one of the most important evolutionary theorists of his generation' E. O. Wilson
'Trivers is a pivotal figure in the second neo-Darwinian revolution. He was a seminal inspiration for my own first book, The Selfish Gene' Richard Dawkins
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Top Customer Reviews
The author sees the reasons for deceit in evolutionary genetics. Therefore some evidence comes from other organisms, including stick insects and monkeys, as well as humans.
What amazed me is how such a simple idea can be related to so many experiments, many of which where originally carried out for completely different reasons. After a slow start, most of the book describes experiment-after-experiment, and observation-after-observation, in a page-turning caliadascope. It is as if the central idea was some sort of super-magnet that attracted evidence from far-and-wide to achieve a critical mass.
And it actually seems to pan out in real life. I now understand more of the odd behavior of people, from politicians to my own family. This is the sort of stuff that judges and juries should know. And if there was anyone to keep our politicians and economists in check, this is the sort of stuff that they should know.
At risk of being invited to copy-edit Roberts - oops, Robert's - next book, the only thing that spoilt my enjoyment was struggling with some of the phrasing and punctuation. It kept forcing me to re-read bits to get the meaning.
Most authors have an aloof style: If they write about racial prejudice, for instance, they are not prejudiced. Neither are we, the reader, of course. It is Other People who are prejudiced. Well, there is none of that nonsense with Robert Trivers. He often uses his own, less-than-ideal, behavior to illustrate deceit. He is irreverent, some might even say coarse, and comes across as somewhat street-wise, as well as academic.
While we wicked humans can be remarkably creative, we are not alone when it comes to fooling others to get what we want. Deception "is a very deep feature of life" and occurs at all levels, in every nook and cranny of the natural world. Warblers are tricked into feeding cuckoo chicks at the expense of their own young. Birds feign a broken wing or death to avoid predation. Male orchids, fireflies and bluegill sunfish mimic females. There is no moral dimension to any of this behaviour, of course, which is grounded in the complex interplay of selective forces at work in a changing environment.Read more ›
This book is, however, a cracking read. It contains a huge amount of science and experiments, always a good sign. This is no light read, be sure! Mixed in with that is a fair amount of the authors own opinion, which may not be the liking to all. Push through it however and there is so much to open your eyes and really make you think about how we interact with others. However it is not done with a zealous attitude, he recognises his own human nature, and those around him (often with a nice bit of humour).
There are some bad points, he does ramble, the psychology can be a inaccessible in places and his own theories can be strained to breaking to fit them to what he's trying to say.
With this in mind I would still recommend it to read. It does take time, but once you get to the end you have a slightly different view on the world. What else could you ask for in a book?
I say "attempt" because, as Trivers admits, there isn't enough evidence to prove or disprove his case. What he does achieve is a fascinating discussion both of deception and self-deception and an outline of some plausible mechanisms for a link between the two. Clearly this was not good enough for some reviewers. If you only want to read about well established fields skip this one, but I do take issue with the suggestion that Trivers confuses research and opinion. The book contains much of both but the boundaries are carved out with a logic that is viciously sharp throughout.
Facing up to self-deception makes us uncomfortable and in places the book is starkly uncomfortable to read. As well as exposing the deceptions of others he is so frank about his own deception and self-deception, it is as if someone being interviewed on television suddenly took off this clothes. Whatever your views on the US, Palestine, the war on Iraq, you will have to admit he has correctly identified self deception and the more uncomfortable it gets to read, the more it shows how deeply ingrained is our instinct to cover up the naked truth.
A lot of excellent research has been carried out recently on irrationality and related topics which is slowly filtering its way to the public.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Oh, what a let down. I was excited to find this book (I live in Shanghai and like paper books which can be difficult to get). I know of Trivers by high repute but.... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kindle Customer
interesting. newly found bits and pieces and old stuff mixed in a well balanced stylePublished 6 months ago by Naoko Umetsu
A very interesting book for those who want to have a greater understanding of the concept of self-deception.Published 16 months ago by Life is a Beautiful Journey
The four-star reviews on this book sum up the strengths and weaknesses of this book. I will try not to duplicate. Read morePublished 23 months ago by F Henwood
This is a quite extraordinary book. As Robert Trivers comments in the very last paragraph:
"One nice feature of the study of deceit and self-deception is that we... Read more
Robert Trivers is the man who brought you the Parental Investment Theory, one of the sillier ideas ever put in front of a public fond of silly ideas. Read morePublished on 21 April 2014 by Paul Woodfine
Trivers is a close friend of Richard Dawkins and they write glowing reviews on the back of each others books. Read morePublished on 22 April 2013 by J. Mann
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