The Psychology of Self-Deception as Illustrated in Literary Characters
Indeed, while deception accurately characterizes specific kinds of .. Language style matching predicts relationship initiation and stability. Read chapter 10 A Broader Concept of Deception: The archer stands and pulls it becomes difficult to find a common set of features that characterizes all of them. . This approach seeks the basis for a taxonomy within the language usage of . go beyond the simple dyadic relationship of the informer and the “informed. ”. Deception is an act or statement which misleads, hides the truth, or promotes a belief, concept, . to speech and watching body language are important factors in detecting lies. . There are three primary motivations for deception in relationships. Those with an insecure attachment style are characterized by not believing.
The experience or state of guilt is accompanied by hormonal and muscular changes that can potentially be detected by an observer. Perhaps the best use of this hypothesis is to predict or detect deception on the basis of beliefs and acts that constitute deceptions and transgressions for a given individual. What a person believes about lying and deception is part of that individual's folk psychology.
Two empirical studies have attempted to describe the way ordinary people conceptualize lying and deception. Although both studies were psychological investigations, the investigators were communication scientists Hopper and Bell, and linguists Coleman and Kay, Subsequently, another linguist carried out a provocative analysis of the Coleman and Kay study Sweetser, These studies are important because they show that the paradigm laboratory experiment might be supplemented by approaches that better elicit leakage cues from members of various groups.
A Taxonomy in Psychological Space One taxonomy of deception was devised by looking for systematic relationships among deception terms used by speakers of English Hopper and Bell, By examining how their subjects classified 46 terms related to deception, the investigators inferred that folk theories of deception recognize six types: This taxonomy organizes the deception realm in terms of perceived similarities among the various concepts that refer to deception in some sense. The investigators suggest that their taxonomy is hierarchical.
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Hopper and Bell add further organization to their taxonomy by looking for attributes or dimensions along which they can order their categories with respect to one another. Their statistical analyses identify three such dimensions and hint at three additional ones. The dimension that accounts for most of the ordering among the deception terms is evaluation: The two other dimensions that account for most of the ordering among their categories are detectability and premeditation.
The three additional dimensions that may also play a role are directness, verbal-nonverbal, and prolonged. The investigators had their subjects— undergraduates in an American university—each sort 46 words into categories that seemed to go together.
The 46 words had been selected to represent a larger set of deception terms. The assumption was that the more subjects who put the same two words in the same category, the more these two words were psychologically similar. After obtaining an index of similarity between every pair of words, the authors used multidimensional scaling to construct a psychological space for these terms.
Hopper and Bell had another group of subjects rate each of the deception words on ten bipolar adjective scales, such as good-bad, harmless-harmful, moral-immoral, direct-indirect.
In our own analysis, we used these ratings with factor analytic procedures to generate a psychological space for the 46 terms. The resulting space was similar to the one that Hopper and Bell found using their clustering procedure. Our analysis indicated that two psychological dimensions were sufficient to account for the variations of the terms on the rating scales.
Figure 1 shows 31 of the words plotted in this two-dimensional space. We have omitted 15 of the terms from the graph because they overlapped with other terms and would have made the graph unintelligible. For our purposes, it is the principle illustrated by this figure that matters. The second dimension is labeled covertness: Notice that the concept lie is located at the bottom right-hand corner of the figure.
Trickery and Deception | Shakespeare I
The subjects agreed in rating lying as harmful, socially unacceptable, and immoral, as well as being highly verbal and direct. Deception also is high on harmfulness but is relatively neutral on the covertness dimension.
This suggests that the subjects recognize that some deceptions can be highly verbal, such as lying, but that they can also be nonverbal. Although fib and whopper are near lie on the covertness dimension, they are rated as relatively neutral on the harmfulness scale. A white lie is rated as only somewhat harmless and somewhat overt.
There are some possible limitations of these data. The variations among the terms are circumscribed by the limited number and range of Page Share Cite Suggested Citation: Some important dimensions in the folk psychology of deception may have been left out. A more important limitation is that the role of context is omitted. Disguise is rated as neutral on harmfulness though covert, but a disguise used for a costume party is quite different from a disguise used to rob a bank.
Perhaps the apparently neutral rating simply reflects that some respondents rated it as harmful and others rated it as neutral. Similarly, most jokes are harmless, but certain practical jokes can be quite cruel and harmful.
Despite these limitations, however, Hopper and Bell's data probably capture some important aspects about how undergraduates in our culture perceive deception. Presumably, if such subjects were telling a lie as a joke, they would display less leakage than if they were telling a lie about who wrote their term paper. We have illustrated this procedure in some detail because we believe that, with suitable refinements, it can be used to yield psychological spaces for different subgroups and cultures.
We might expect that different groups would differ on which kinds of deception they placed at the socially acceptable and socially unacceptable ends of the harmfulness dimension. This could be useful information, for example, if leakage cues to deception mainly occur when an individual is deceiving in a way that his or her culture finds socially unacceptable.
A Prototype Theory Another way to uncover the psychological space with respect to deception was illustrated by Coleman and Kay These authors carried out their empirical study of the word lie as an assault on the previously dominant checklist theories of meaning.
The checklist view assumes that the meaning of a word consists of a set of features: For example, bachelor refers to any object that is human, adult, male, unmarried.
According to the checklist theory, any person who possesses all four of these defining features is a bachelor, and a person who lacks one or more of these features is not a bachelor.
The classic theory of meaning asserts that the possession of these defining features is both necessary and sufficient for being a bachelor. Such a definition establishes what is called an equivalence class—every person who satisfies the definition is as much a bachelor as every other bachelor.
Even before this classical theory began to be challenged in the s, some scholars had pointed to problems with the classical definition. For example, is the Pope a bachelor?
What about a widower? The alternative view of meaning, which became popular during the s, is known as the prototype theory. Much of the early work supporting this theory had been done with colors Rosch, Not all examples of the color red, say, are equal.
People in different cultures agree that some examples are better reds than others. Additional experimental work dealing with directly perceptible objects such as plants, animals, utensils, and furniture supported the prototype theory. Coleman and Kay wanted to show that the prototype phenomenon can also be found in words referring to less concrete things, such as the speech-act word lie.
A good lie is one for which the speaker S asserts some proposition P to addressee A such that: P is false false in fact ; S believes P to be false believe false ; and in uttering P, S intends to deceive A intent to deceive. In the checklist or classical theory these three properties would be necessary and sufficient for a statement to be a lie. Statements that possess all three properties would be the best examples of a lie.
Statements that possessed only two of the three defining properties might still be considered lies, but not very good examples. Statements that had only one of the properties would be considered even poorer examples of lies. Finally, statements that possessed none of these three properties would not be considered as lies.
Coleman and Kay conducted an empirical test of the theory by constructing brief stories to correspond with each of the eight possible combinations of possessing or not possessing the property. The story corresponding to the possession of all three properties was as follows p. Moe has eaten the cake Juliet was intending to serve to company. The story corresponding to the possession of none of three defining properties was p.
Dick, John, and H. As expected, all 67 of Coleman and Kay's American subject's agreed that 1 was a lie and that 2 was not a lie.
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What they were interested in was how these respondents would react to the other stories, which Page Share Cite Suggested Citation: Story 3for example, had two defining characteristics: It lacked the property that S believes P to be false. This story was as follows p. Pigfat believes he has to pass the candy store to get to the pool hall, but he is wrong about this because the candy store has moved.
Pigfat's mother doesn't approve of pool. As he is going out the door intending to go to the pool hall, Pigfat's mother asks him where is going. Pigfat's statement was considered to be a lie by 58 percent of the judges; 37 percent judged it not to be a lie; and 5 percent could not make a decision. The more defining properties a story contained, the more likely it was to be judged a lie. The authors noted some minor departures from the ordering that their theory would have predicted.
In part, these departures could be attributed to the fact that each story differed in content. Coleman and Kay also obtained comments from their subjects. In agreement with their theory, the comments referred to the three prototypical properties to justify why a statement was judged as a lie.
But the subjects also referred to other properties, such as the reprehensibility of the acts and the motives of the person making the statement.
The authors discuss their reasons for not including some of these additional properties in the prototype for lie. They distinguish between prototypical and typical properties of a concept. Lies, in their view, are prototypically statements that the speaker believes to be false, intends the hearer to believe, and are, in fact, false.
Lies are also typically reprehensible, but not prototypically so. They conclude Coleman and Kay, Although this is not the only plausible way to do so, we summarize our observations by saying that reprehensibleness, although characteristic of typical acts of lying, is not a prototypical property of such acts, and as such does not play a role in the semantic prototype or in the meaning of lie. This distinction between prototypical and typical properties of a concept is controversial.
We do not take a side in this controversy; we discuss the issue here because, regardless of whether reprehensibility is a prototypical or typical property of lying, it may matter for the leakage hypothesis. Only acts that are reprehensible or otherwise morally unacceptable to a given individual would be expected to lead to those states that generate nonverbal leakage.
To gain an understanding of how different cultural groups construe various types of lying and deception, the Coleman and Kay approach should be extended by adding stories that also vary on such properties as perceived social acceptability, potential harmfulness, and the like. Like Hopper and Bell, Sweetser wants to describe the folk theory or conception of lying; unlike Hopper and Bell, her method is linguistic rather than psychological.
Sweetser notes the view of concepts as fuzzy sets rather than classical equivalence classes, but she argues for a different account. She suggests that within folk psychology, the classical view may actually hold. She claims that the folk definition of lying holds for a prototypical, simplified model of the world.
This prototypical world contains maxims such as: In this prototypical context, if the speaker's statement is false, then it is clearly a lie. When subjects are not completely sure whether a speaker is lying, Sweetser argues that this is not because the specific act differs from the prototypical lie, but rather the act occurs in a context that differs from the prototypical one.
A joke is a false statement deliberately uttered by the speaker. It is not clearly a lie, according to Sweetser, because the context in which the joke is made differs from the prototypical one.
In the prototypical context for defining a lie, conveying true information is paramount. But in the context of a joke, playing is paramount, and conveying true information is irrelevant. Subjects are unsure about whether a joke is a lie because they are not sure that a lie can occur in a context in which the truth is irrelevant. Sweetser's analysis of lying highlights the need to keep context in mind when devising a taxonomy of deception. Indeed, we believe that an adequate taxonomy of deception will include a taxonomy of the contexts in which each kind of deceptive act can occur.
Sweetser's analysis points to a further issue that may be important for a good taxonomy. She states that a speaker feels less immoral if he or she manages to deceive the target without directly lying. She suggests that deceivers feel less guilt about deceiving by implication rather than by deceiving by an explicitly false claim. In contrast, she also suggests that a victim feels more resentment by having been deceived by implication than by a direct lie.
If Sweetser is correct, then it could be hypothesized that a deceiver is less likely to leak deceptive signals when engaging in indirect deception than in direct deception. Implications for this hypothesis are derived from the Druckman et al.
These investigators found both similarities and differences in displayed nonverbal behaviors between Page Share Cite Suggested Citation: Discriminant-analysis results showed that the evaders were more similar to deceivers than to honest subjects in overall displays.
However, the evaders could be distinguished from deceivers in terms of particular nonverbal behaviors displayed during certain time periods and as deviations from baseline data: These findings suggest that evaders are not less likely to leak deceptive signals; rather, different cues may be leaked by indirect evaders and direct deceivers. The cross-cultural question is intriguing. Several interesting suggestions are made in the anthropological, linguistic, and other related literatures.
A first reading of the literatures provides a pessimistic answer to the possibility of finding universal indicators of deception. Some cultures seem to have notions of what constitutes lying and deception that differ markedly from American folklore. Even more disquieting is the claim that in some cultures lying and deceiving, in several contexts, are not only socially acceptable, but actually considered exemplary behavior when the fabrications succeed.
The reason these first impressions of cross-cultural differences are disheartening is because of the assumption that a deceiver will only leak his or her intentions when knowingly deceiving and violating a social taboo.
Thus, one faces the task of finding out what is considered a socially unacceptable fabrication within various cultural groups. Once such contexts have been discovered, then interrogations could be arranged so as to put informants, for example, in a situation in which they would be violating a cultural taboo if they lied when presenting information to interrogators. Our reading of the literature indicates that if a socially unacceptable deception for a given informant has been identified, then circumstances can be created that will lead to leakage if the informant is willfully lying.
Socialization Our focus has been on a folk psychology of deception because it seems to offer the best way to achieve a general theory of deception. The leakage hypothesis assumes that a given individual will display potentially detectable signs when he or she is in a certain psychological state. As we have noted, a key issue is the extent to which these diagnostic cues are universal—that is, to what extent they show the same pattern across cultures and situations—and the evidence to date suggests the possibility that there may be both universal and culturally specific aspects to leakage displays.
Everyone is raised within family and cultural settings that teach which acts are socially unacceptable. This socialization process is considered to impart a relatively permanent tendency to experience guilt or a similar state whenever a person commits, or even considers committing, social transgressions. Such tendencies may persevere even when an individual, as an adult, consciously rejects many of the values within which he or she was raised.
One assumption, then, is that for all cultures people will react with a guilty state when they believe they are violating a cultural norm. Knowing the folk psychology for various cultures becomes important if one wants to know what constitutes a cultural taboo for a given individual. That is why the techniques used by Hopper and Bell and by Coleman and Kay have been discussed in some detail.
By properly refining and adapting their methods, information can be gathered on how individuals from various cultures and subcultures conceive of deception and lying. This information, in turn, might lead to determining what sorts of stories or actions constitute socially unacceptable behaviors. Such findings could then be used to create appropriate stimuli that may elicit leakage if the individual is, in fact, trying to deceive.
This model assumes people have been socialized. What about individuals who have not been socialized? In the past, psychologists and psychiatrists diagnosed some individuals as psychopaths or sociopaths.
A few experiments have been carried out with such persons using the polygraph; all of them are controversial and the results are contradictory.
It is doubtful, for example, that an intelligence agent would want to trust a person so diagnosed, even if such a person could successfully deceive the enemy. The typical dyadic situation is one in which the two individuals interact and each adapts his or her behavior in the light of what the other person says and does.
In contrast, all the research on the leakage hypothesis has been conducted within a relatively static, noninteractive mode. Typically, the detector makes judgments in response to a videotaped presentation. The detector cannot continue and ask further questions, nor can the deceiver adjust his or her behavior on the basis of feedback from the detector.
But this is just the context in which ordinary dyadic communication occurs. It is possible that a detector can do better than the dismal performances so far reported if he or she is allowed to actually interact with the sender. However, the sender might actually do even better at hiding deception in an interactive mode, because the deceiver can use feedback from the victim to adjust both the content and mode of presentation so as to be more acceptable to the victim.
When this event occurs, Vere must make a crucial decision: Should he uphold naval law and condemn Billy to death, or do what is morally right, opt for another punishment, and let him live?
He knows that Claggart falsely accused Billy of mutiny. He also knows that Billy has a speech impediment, and therefore has to resort to using his fist to defend against the accusation. He states of Claggart: The reader immediately notices a conflict arising in Vere.
He considers Billy an angel, but believes that he must sentence him to death. How can one condemn an angel to death?
In deceiving himself, Vere, like our other literary characters, is able to justify his actions and resolve the struggle. The work itself is rather deceptive, so we must look beyond what is stated, when an index is given, to what is implied about this struggle. Knowledge of the world assuredly implies the knowledge of human nature, and in most of its varieties.
Yes, but a superficial knowledge of it, serving ordinary purposes. But for anything deeper, I am not certain whether to know the world and to know human nature be not two distinct branches of knowledge, which while they may coexist, yet either may exist with little or nothing of the other.
Melville 75 This exchange suggests that one may be knowledgeable of the world, or reality, yet create a division between an understanding of human nature, or the identity of true self, and consciousness. For one who accepts reality and perceives himself accurately, there is no division: The story is so solidly filled out as to suggest dimensions in all directions.
Forty years after a battle it is easy for a non-combatant to reason about how it ought to have been fought. It is another thing personally and under fire to direct the fighting while involved. Much so with respect to other emergencies involving considerations both practical and moral, and when it is imperative promptly to act. Little ween the snug card-players in the cabin of the responsibilities of the sleepless man on the bridge.
Vere knows what is morally right, yet tries to deceive not only himself, but other as well. He knows that this decision is questionable, and, in the end, an open meeting might have prevented the homicide.
Billy did kill Claggart, but it was unintentional and precipitated by a serious, false accusation. He seemed unmindful of the circumstance that to his bluff company such remote allusions, however pertinent they might really be, were altogether alien to men whose reading was mainly confined to the journals.
Their honesty prescribes to them directness, sometimes far-reaching like that of a migratory fowl that in its flight never heeds when it crosses a frontier. Melville 63 This description clearly illustrates that Vere is not concerned with reality. He bars this information from awareness with cognitive censors in order to reduce the likelihood of experiencing the pain or anxiety inherent in facing reality.
His denial ultimately destroys both himself and Billy. Scholars familiar with the work of Melville know that he is a master at the art of ambiguity, a deceptive, yet effective literary device. He uses ambiguity as sly indexes to how we should read the narrative. The narrative should bring us to certain realizations concerning self-deception, not personal opinions concerning specific events.
The following passage describes the closeted interview between Vere and Billy. Between the entrance into the cabin of him who never left it alive, and him who when he did leave it left it as one condemned to die. Melville The reader must ask himself: Is the narrator referring to Vere or to Billy? Self-deception, in general, can be described as the condemnation of the truth and the killing of reality.
Like most of us, Vere is not a one-dimensional deviant who enthusiastically embraces evil, but as he continues down a path of deception, he is more than able to sacrifice a human life. The plan is that Nazi war secrets will be encoded in his radio broadcasts, thereby aiding allied forces.
On the surface, Campbell will appear to be a Nazi, but he is actually an allied supporter. Note that Vonnegut begins the work with a moral to the tale: Campbell relays secret messages to Allied Forces, but because they are embedded in Nazi propaganda and delivered so persuasively, he inspires the Germans.
In the end, we must ask: The following dialogue between Campbell and another character expounds on this question: If not Campbell, who was this renowned Nazi propagandist? I would let you wander off to wherever spies go when a war is over. But I doubt that he was that subtle a man, man of many parts as he was. The comments concerning Eichmann can easily be applied to Campbell.
If he acknowledged his actions, his false self-concept would collapse. In the end, the reader is left at precisely the same point as Campbell himself: To begin, the bird appears and is greeted with unmitigated enthusiasm: Coleridge paints a portrait of relatedness that is positive and glowing, ending with the literal sheen of the moon: It is at precisely at this point that the listener interrupts and asks: He [the spirit] loved the bird that loved The man who shot him with his bowitalics mine.
Lacking any apparent motive, he slays the bird just the same. This act stems from his will, yet lacks conscious intention. It was committed not as an expression of self, but for reasons unknown. The subtlety with which Coleridge conveys self-deception becomes apparent because even at the moment the Albatross falls away, the Mariner remains unaware: A spring of love gushed from my heart, And I bless them unaware: Sure my kind saint took pity on me, And I blessed them unaware Consequently, this shift causes the Albatross to fall from his neck.
But ere my living life returned, I heard and in my soul discerned Two voices in the air. Like one, that on a lonesome road Doth walk in fear and dread, And having once turned round walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows, a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread. The Mariner has gained insight, but has not achieved an integration of self. According to Freud, the price of repression is repetition. The Mariner, though absolved of shooting the albatross, must nevertheless repeat his narrative to keep from repeating his horrible deed: Since then, at an uncertain hour, That agony returns: And till my ghastly tale is told, This heart within me burns.
It is here that Coleridge answers the critical question: We depart sadder, however, because we recognize that the path from self-deception and toward self-integration is long, painful, and fraught with obstacles: More to the point, the sadness of the wedding guest, and the reader, stems from a stunning recognition: I am that Mariner.
A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn. Conclusion We began this essay with an assertion that everyone has experienced insight that altered some prior perception. As we began to question false ideas concerning self-insight, the complexity of our task grew exponentially. Having turned to literature as a potential source for illumination, what have we learned? Answering this question requires working towards a theory of self that not only allows for the possibility of mistaken or deceptive beliefs, but also embraces them as fundamental to the construction of a self-concept.
Although a completely accurate reading of all dimensions of self is impossible, our literary characters suggest that relative degrees of accuracy are attainable.
Therefore, the dilemma of self-deception is best approached not as a phenomenal thing, but as a phenomenal process much like consciousness itself.
Deception as a Derived Function of Language
At every moment of existence, we are flooded with information that potentially challenges our current perception of self. Festinger shares a presupposition with many identity theorists: We briefly register new information in sensory memory, giving primacy to information that matches what is already stored in long-term memory, while simultaneously blocking information that contradicts with that which we already know. Jean-Baptiste illustrates most vividly the role memory plays in self-deception: Here is a rather mundane example.
Consider an advertisement that states: For Charles, a person is not reducible to what he wears. A couple of hours pass and he simply forgets about the message. Is he guilty of self-deception? Later that day, someone walks up to Charles and says: You are supporting the oppression of innocent people. Is he now guilty of self-deception? Assuming the validity of the information regarding the origin of the sneakers, yes.
The first case may be seen as an act of self-affirmation, while the second case clearly suggests self-deception. They describe a cognitive mechanism by which individuals unconsciously reject information that is dissonance-producing. How, then, are we to distinguish? In a sense, the two sets of theorists provide a glimpse of opposite sides of the same coin. While it is possible to split the consciousness, or hide from oneself, we may choose not to do so.
Sartre describes this as unity of consciousness, Jung as integration of self. The full-view mirror, however, is not sufficient: The crucial question, then, and the problem that our literary characters each faced in his own way, is this one: Is it possible to look both into a full-view mirror and out of a full-length window at the same time?
The complexity and elusiveness of the integrative task, it would seem, is that it demands a bi-directional gaze: At each moment, we are presented with a range of stimuli that far exceeds the capacity of our selective attention. As our focus shifts, the contents of consciousness also imperceptibly shift in pursuit, transferring awareness to our memory. And, as memory researchers warn, when we attend to material previously stored, we reconstruct it in a manner more fitting to our current attentive gaze.
Perceiving reality of self and world is no simple matter. To speak of complexity and difficulty, however, is not to speak of impossibility.
Awareness, attendance to self, and articulation of engagement with the world frees the mind from self-deceptive tendencies. Both attentiveness to deception and maintenance of attention become the prime prerequisites of integration. The puzzling paradox of self-deception is that it bestows short-term benefits to self by helping us maintain consistency in order to avoid anxiety.
In this way, cruelty becomes deceptively camouflaged. By the time our literary characters witness the suicide of another human being, the hanging of an angel, the murder of six million Jews, or the killing of something that only loves, they have inadvertently turned their attention to the fatal acts themselves and ignored their cause.
It may be that the telling of their stories, and the consequences implicit therein, constitute essential first steps for the re-direction of our own attentive processes.
A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Duquesne U P,