#354 The Surprising Upsides of Self-Deception | Shankar Vedantam
Anyone with a passing familiarity with Buddhism will know that “delusion” is rarely, if ever, mentioned in a positive way. In fact, the Buddha included delusion (aka: confusion about the way things really are) on his list of “the three poisons.” The whole point of meditation, per the Buddha, is to uproot delusion -- along with greed and hatred. Only then can you be enlightened.
My guest today is here to valiantly make the case that delusion -- or self-deception -- has an upside. Many upsides, in fact. While he concedes that self-deception can, of course, be massively harmful, he argues that it also plays a vital role in our success and wellbeing, and that it holds together friendships, marriages, and nations. Understanding this, he says, can make you happier, more effective, and -- crucially -- more empathetic with people with whom you disagree.
Shankar Vedantam is the host of the popular podcast and radio show Hidden Brain. His new book is called Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain. In this conversation, we talk about: the many ways our brains filter and alter our perception of reality; why we evolved for a robust capacity to lie to ourselves; and how his research on delusions has colored his view of the chaos and confusion of our modern world.
Excited about the Taming Anxiety Challenge? Download the Ten Percent Happier app today to get ready!
Where to find Shankar Vedantam online:
Other Resources Mentioned:
- Church Of Love Drama: Sex, Money, Angels And Broken Dreams
- Donald Hoffman, cognitive psychologist
- The Mahabharata
- Shankar in conversation with Daniel Kahneman, Robert Cialdini, and Richard Thaler at the Behavioral Science Conference
- Naive Realism
- George Carlin, on driving
- The Ship of Theseus
- Story of Saint Augustine’s prayer for celibacy
- Joseph Goldstein
- Bill Mesler