Andy’s Quick Hits (158): The four strategies of self-deception

Andy Hab
2 min readFeb 10, 2022

In a world of alternative facts this paper by Marchi and Newen of Ruhr-University Bochum is insightful. They analyse and clarify different forms of self-deception. Of note is that self-deception is a natural process and can, in the short-term, have benefits to an individual by protecting self-identity and keeping motivation active, for example. However, the authors also note it is almost always detrimental in the mid- and long-term.

The first and most common one is something called reorganisation of beliefs. In the current Covid situation it may be people who have had multiple vaccinations suddenly see vaccinations as an evil ploy. Their beliefs have been reorganised. The researchers however, also identified three other forms that happen earlier in the process which may prevent unpleasant, or unwished for, facts getting to you in the first place.

The second is selecting facts, this means only getting the information you want, or avoiding the information you don’t want. Easily done in a selective way in our current society.

The third is to reject facts by casting doubt on the credibility of the sources — commonly used in many forms in society and political parties (of both sides).

The fourth is generating facts from ambiguous information or interpreting ambiguous information in the way one wants to — one often seen in the pandemic with unclear information being able to be interpreted in many different ways (“it’s just like flu”).

Reorganising of beliefs can be considered the final outcome but is often driven by the other three. To summarise:

  • Reorganisation of beliefs

Contributed to by:

  • Selecting facts
  • Rejecting facts (often through credibility of source)
  • Generating facts (under ambiguity)

Unfortunately, in some situations, the tragic outcome is, as in during the Covid19 pandemic, sickness, disability, and sometimes death.

Francesco Marchi, Albert Newen.
Self-deception in the predictive mind: cognitive strategies and a challenge from motivation.
Philosophical Psychology, 2022; 1
DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2021.2019693

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!