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June 19, 2007 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Positive self-deception is a normal In 1988, psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown published an article making the somewhat disturbing claim that positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook.
posted by punkfloyd (71 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
We call this Neoconitis.
posted by tkchrist at 1:06 PM on June 19, 2007


Um, duh?
posted by dame at 1:11 PM on June 19, 2007


Well, I know that I'm pretty awesome.
posted by generichuman at 1:11 PM on June 19, 2007


I thought we called it The Secret.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:12 PM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


They don't call my it my trumpet for nothing.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:14 PM on June 19, 2007


See also.
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 1:14 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


pssst - people who don't have this attribute have probably already killed themselves.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:15 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we may deceive ourselves here on Earth, but when I get to heaven I won't need to because everything will be perfect.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:15 PM on June 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well sure, in that one's perception of time and existence within a "material" world are self-deceiving entrapments that one must constantly labor to dispel. Although I see this as neither positive or negative, but simply a byproduct of a being's struggle toward enlightenment.

*disintegrates into ash*
posted by hermitosis at 1:20 PM on June 19, 2007


There's no way I overinflate my self-esteem like that. I'm too good for that.
posted by Foosnark at 1:22 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I invented this idea. Years and years ago. You're welcome! Kisses!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:24 PM on June 19, 2007


Yeah, I'm surprised anyone doesn't know this.

Then again, I've taken a lot of psych classes, one of which went over this.
posted by delmoi at 1:26 PM on June 19, 2007


pssst - people who don't have this attribute have probably already killed themselves.

It's not kind to pass judgment on the dearly departed.
posted by prostyle at 1:26 PM on June 19, 2007


Metafilter: Positive self-deception is normal

I always wanted to be one of those people who posts a "Metafilter: ..." comment!
posted by mrnutty at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2007


No, chuckdarwin, many of us are still here, waiting for the rest of humanity to wake up.
posted by SaintCynr at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter I always wanted to be one of those people who posts a "Metafilter: ..." comment!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:33 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, a lot of people over the years have referred to me as a psychopathic misanthrope, who would gladly light a match rather than curse the darkness, if that match could then be applied to a suitable quantity of gasoline and/ or high explosive. Preferably in such a way that destroyed as much of the human race as possible.

I prefer to think of myself as an independent, self motivated, go-getter who has a healthy interest in pyrotechnology and a strong belief in making the world a better place.

I wouldn't call it self delusion, I would call it a more accurate interpretation.
posted by quin at 1:34 PM on June 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


My self-dilution is about 80 proof.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:37 PM on June 19, 2007


The eating disorder example seems sort of flawed. Women with eating disorders said they had unattractive bodies, and others agreed. But if the women were anorexic, wouldn't they rate themselves as unattractive because they felt they were too fat, while others would judge them unattractively skinny?

Moreover, even if the women in question were actually overweight and rated themselves as ugly, couldn't that be seen as less "percieving the world realistically" and more "buying into other peoples' negative opinions"?
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:43 PM on June 19, 2007


49% of people are below average.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:47 PM on June 19, 2007


Descartes says that I'm a real boy, and I believe it.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:52 PM on June 19, 2007


Oh, Descartes said no such thing! But he really can't stop you from thinking he did.
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:57 PM on June 19, 2007


I prefer negative self-deception. Less pressure.
posted by jonmc at 2:07 PM on June 19, 2007


Hell, this is part-and-parcel of daily life in any corporation these days. Doubly-so in the marketing departments.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:08 PM on June 19, 2007


Descartes would have said that your gender was inessential to your real being. If you believe you're a real boy, you don't have a clear and distinct notion of yourself yet.

He's dead, though, so Ms. Saint is right.
posted by voltairemodern at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2007


Descartes wasn't so smart. He just thought he was.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:19 PM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


See also "Unskilled and Unaware of It"
posted by Eekacat at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2007


I just wanted to note that 80 proof sure as hell beats the ontological proof, while we're talkin' Descartes and all. I like to fancy that Rene was a vodka man: clear and distinct, baby.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2007


"The Total Perspective Vortex had proved that, in an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion."

-D.N.A.
posted by IronLizard at 2:23 PM on June 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


If you're not suicidally depressed, you're just not paying attention.
posted by leftcoastbob at 3:07 PM on June 19, 2007


I'm paying attention deficit disorderly conduct unbecoming the merciless!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:12 PM on June 19, 2007


Stumbling on Happiness also talks about this.
posted by whoaali at 3:23 PM on June 19, 2007


Why won't people accept me for the person I am pretending to be at the moment.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:24 PM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ever day and every way I just keep getting better and better.

*sobs softly in the darkness*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:37 PM on June 19, 2007


Ever day and every way I just keep getting better and better.

except spelling, bet what's a 'y' among friends?
posted by jonmc at 3:59 PM on June 19, 2007


jonmc : bet

:)
posted by quin at 4:04 PM on June 19, 2007


The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote that "the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

That's got to be a candidate for most salient quote ever.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:06 PM on June 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


Don't trust anyone who's not living a delusional existence.
posted by blucevalo at 4:06 PM on June 19, 2007


positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook

As an intelligent, attractive, desirable man, with insight, wisdom, reason, and objectivity, I agree with that statement.
posted by The Deej at 4:17 PM on June 19, 2007


So does this mean I should start believing in heaven? That seems to be a pretty positive self-deception.
posted by LooseFilter at 4:23 PM on June 19, 2007


Self-deception is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very thread. You can see it when you resize your windows or when you click on your YouTube. You can feel it when you login at work... when you go to The Church Of The SubGenius... when you decline to pay your taxes. It is the world that you pull over your eyes to blind you from the truth. What truth? That you are a slave. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind. A prison known as: The MeTrix.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:25 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


A prison known as: The MeTrix.

The MetTrix is not a prison, it's a completely superior system. Or a new brand of breakfast cereal. One of the two.

(Silly Mefites, Trix are.... oh whatever.)
posted by IronLizard at 4:28 PM on June 19, 2007


but what's a y,...I give right the fuck up.
posted by jonmc at 4:28 PM on June 19, 2007


MetaFilter: A prison for your mind.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:07 PM on June 19, 2007


Eh, I might be somewhat disturbed by the claim if I wasn’t so well hung.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:07 PM on June 19, 2007


People with mental disorders may sometimes not have the normal positive illusions (and may sometimes have excessive ones). Despite the article's hinting, that doesn't mean realistic perceptions cause mental disorders.
posted by parudox at 5:11 PM on June 19, 2007


Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown [...] suggested that average people hold cognitive biases in three key areas: a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms...

I'm not sure whether it was in that study or elsewhere, but I was amused by the finding that people apparently tend to rate themselves as "above average" on pretty much any measure you suggest to them:

"well, I'm not a sports superstar, but I'm probably better than the average Joe"

"the modelling agencies aren't exactly knocking down my door, but I'd say my looks are on the better side of average..."

I link this tendency with that of people to make blanket statements along the lines of "people are so stupid, they just swallow whatever the media feed them". In their own minds, everybody is more switched on than the unthinking masses, except that all the other members of the unthinking masses feel exactly the same way. For marketers who know how to play up to this self-congratulatory streak, it must be like shooting fish in a barrel.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:23 PM on June 19, 2007


The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote that "the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

Also:
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." -- W. B. Yeats
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:24 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was amused by the finding that people apparently tend to rate themselves as "above average"

Nah, I give myself straight 'mediocre' ratings all down the line. Why raise the bar?
posted by jonmc at 5:25 PM on June 19, 2007


Dostoevsky's take.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 5:25 PM on June 19, 2007


I, personally, revel in my mediocrity. Just not enough to be noticeable.
posted by IronLizard at 5:30 PM on June 19, 2007


kinda reminds me of Lauren Slater's take on self-esteem.
posted by DarkForest at 6:27 PM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


clearly, jonmc, you cannot be average, or you wouldn't rate yourself as such. (hm, that seems to be an actual catch-22)

in terms of raising bars, though, considering yourself to be in a higher league than you really are may prove to be advantageous
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:29 PM on June 19, 2007


That's a lot o' reading you just assigned there, YoBananaBoy.
Care to give a simp like me the CliffsNotes version?
posted by Tbola at 7:03 PM on June 19, 2007


"The Total Perspective Vortex had proved that, in an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion."

-D.N.A.


That could be in this thread, too....
posted by Many bubbles at 7:45 PM on June 19, 2007


Sorry, but:

We're all Bozos on this bus.
posted by Twang at 8:03 PM on June 19, 2007


Raising a few at the bar helps too.
posted by Abiezer at 8:14 PM on June 19, 2007


Sure, positive self delusion may be good for the self-deluded, but it sure is hell for everyone else around them.

So what would you advocate; let people self delude so they feel better about themselves or encourage people to bubble-burst (other people's positive self-delusions) to make the world less intolerable?
posted by porpoise at 8:30 PM on June 19, 2007


This reminds me of the Devil's Dictionary.

BTW, Here is Bierce's definition of "Cartesian":

CARTESIAN, adj.
Relating to Descartes, a famous philosopher, author of the celebrated dictum, Cogito ergo sum -- whereby he was pleased to suppose he demonstrated the reality of human existence. The dictum might be improved, however, thus: Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum -- "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am;" as close an approach to certainty as any philosopher has yet made.
posted by Tube at 8:39 PM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

/stuart smalley
posted by amyms at 9:11 PM on June 19, 2007


I'm a total waste of all the atoms that comprise me. The real question is why y'all don't inspire me to do any better.
posted by davy at 9:56 PM on June 19, 2007


This is exactly what I needed to read today. I was beginning to worry that I was the only person using their internal monologue to silence objective perspective of my being and situation. Now I can feel good about "feeling good" about myself, live to wake another day and the cycle begins again!
posted by Curry at 10:00 PM on June 19, 2007


"People who interact with [paranoid people] may be taken aback as they find themselves accused of harboring some negative opinion of the person which, secretly, they actually do hold."

For example, I bet cortex thinks I'm acting like a dick when I mention him in contexts like this just to pick on somebody.
posted by davy at 10:04 PM on June 19, 2007


On tasks that are perceived as difficult, people tend to rate themselves as being worse than average. It's difficult for people to evaluate how good others are at something, so they use the heuristic of how easy they themselves find the task.
posted by parudox at 10:11 PM on June 19, 2007


I really truly suck at math and science. Even figuring the best buy (say 5.99 for a 12-pack of Miller vs. 6.79 for a 15-pack of Stroh's) requires pencil & paper (if not a calculator when I'm too tired to divide). But I read pretty well, as long as I'm interested enough in the subject so my eyes don't glaze over and/or as long as the writing I'm reading is of at last middling competence and artistry. Of course this proves I'm about average for a bona fide super-genius.
posted by davy at 10:19 PM on June 19, 2007


davy : I'm a total waste of all the atoms that comprise me.

That is just not true. You are a quality member here, and even moreso when you consider how your atoms align just right to make you interestingly flammable when enough heat is applied.

I think you might be selling yourself short.

The real question is why y'all don't inspire me to do any better.

Ok, I suppose that you could douse yourself in in some sort of chemical accelerant, but that would be asking a bit much.

Failing that, you could do better in you personal and professional life by documenting your deeds in such a way that everyone here can admire your skill.

Or you could consider my suggestion about being flammable. I mean, it's probably easier.

posted by quin at 10:25 PM on June 19, 2007


Hey quin, I had to re-read that a couple times but eventually my tired, bored and half-drunk brain got it. It'd be even funnier if I were allowed to play with matches.

By the way, seriously, I have a much easier time recalling painful events, especially occasions when I behaved with especial meanness and/or stupidity. What does that mean and/or what's the fancy label for it?
posted by davy at 11:05 PM on June 19, 2007


By the way, seriously, I have a much easier time recalling painful events, especially occasions when I behaved with especial meanness and/or stupidity.

Hey! Me too! Unfortunately, it doesn't keep me from making more of these blunders.
posted by IronLizard at 11:14 PM on June 19, 2007


You know, it is not a bad thing that most people tend to have positive self-images that are false.

It is a bad thing, however, that for some of these people, especially those in positions of wealth and power, the gap between their self-assessed ability scores and their actual ability scores is very, very wide. [see also]
posted by moonbiter at 1:49 AM on June 20, 2007


Um, duh?

My first thought, too.

Normal folks with their own complement of foibles and failings that we all share, telling themselves and everyone else that they are worse than they really are, and gravitating down to that in self-fulfilling prophecy? Not so good.

Reasonably, moderately smart and talented people (as most of us are) believing positive things about their own capabilities and then rising to their own self-imposed standards? Good.

Overconfident incompetent upward-failing bozos biting off more than they can chew and bringing governments and corporations crashing down, hurting thousands of others? Not so good.

As in all things, the middle path is to be preferred.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:13 PM on June 20, 2007


At least at the shelter where I volunteer, the dogs are consistently happy to see me. I'll settle.
posted by pax digita at 9:55 AM on June 21, 2007


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