According to Smith, deception lies so deeply at the heart of our existence that we often cannot distinguish truth from lies in our everyday lives. Deception, he writes, is pervasive as we manage how others perceive us, from using cosmetics to lying on a job application; it is "more often spontaneous and unconscious than cynical and coldly analytical." In this superficial investigation of the biology and psychology of lying, Smith, a professor of philosophy and cofounder and director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of New England, tries to demonstrate that humans are hardwired to deceive: we do so just as frogs and lizards engage in mimicry, to insure the survival of the species. Unlike other animals, however, we have the capacity to deceive ourselves as well as others, since our mendacity is embedded not only in our evolutionary past but also in our unconscious. Smith tells us nothing that hasn't been covered by other writers in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. Moreover, his study is really two books—one on evolutionary biology and the other on psychology and the unconscious—and the lack of transition makes it hard to tell what one really has to do with the other.
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The brain, especially the unconscious mind, is the ultimate challenge for scientists and philosophers. Following the lead of Antonio Damasio and Diane Ackerman, Smith focuses on a particularly baffling trait, our proclivity for deception, not only our habit of lying to others but also, and far more mysteriously, the way we deceive ourselves. To show that lying is as natural as breathing, Smith presents a lively survey of the many forms of deception practiced by plants, insects, and animals. He then turns to Homo sapiens and offers cogent and provocative analysis of the link between increasingly complex societies, the evolution of the brain, and the need for "social lies" in the interest of civility. This leads to eyebrow-raising speculation regarding the source of our habitual mendacity and psyche-protecting self-deception (the extent of which is truly astonishing), a facet of the unconscious that Smith calls "Machiavellian intelligence," and a convincing theory as to why it functions "beyond the reach of introspection." With an "aha!" moment on every page, Smith's inquiry is stimulating and unsettling. Donna Seaman
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This is a somewhat interesting book, but the title is misleading. It is not about why we lie, or about lying in any useful sense of the word. Read morePublished 2 months ago by M. Walker
Yes, it's true. We all lie. The author suggests it's inevitable. But there's a big difference in the type of lies people tell. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Constant Reader
I love reading books on psychology and being human and this particular book deals with an aspect of human nature that seems to be rarely discussed. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Debbie Lamperd
A lot of the basis of this book, and its validity, turns on exactly how one defined "deceit". Is it when someone intentionally tries to deceive? Read morePublished on July 14, 2013 by Cissa
was just curious, i would have enjoyed a more interesting and useful ending from a casual readers POV. v vPublished on December 8, 2012 by G. C. Austin
What makes a book worthy reading? For me it's a feeling like someone puts a mixer into my head and turns it on... When You find such a book You will get such a reviews like below. Read morePublished on July 30, 2012 by Tomasz Cierpisz
The book is certainly interesting, yet it seems very far-fetched, like the author points out quite a few times himself. Read morePublished on June 28, 2010 by Redefined
This well written book argues that deception and self-deception are widespread: "Nature is awash with deception" (p.1). Read morePublished on June 21, 2010 by Harry C. Triandis
Solid scientific writing all the way through. For someone who knows nothing about evolutionary psychology the material covered would have to be mind-blowing indeed. Read morePublished on March 11, 2010 by Christopher Ammons