Nov

1

 One is working on a post about false modesty. From Uriah Heep to the sage and gross and denial of false modesty by the "bank" and would appreciate any insight you might have. To me, pretending to be low, when you wish to gain sympathy and set a low bar for doing better is very common. The athlete that pretends "all the young kids are so much fresher than I" should not be overlooked.

 Gary Rogan writes: 

False modesty is mostly useful when you are buying, and for some reason almost everyone seems to be aggressively selling something complicated, and it also seems like these days (and it's not always been the case), the way to do a big sale is to seem like the big man on campus fully confident in your product as opposed to someone who just fell of the turnip truck and has no idea how to price what they are selling. Probably because when you are selling complicated things it strains credibility to claim that you have no idea what they are or what they are worth, yet they somehow will work. On the other hand if you are selling horses or gold-mining rights it pays to appear stupid.

There are of course still many examples. One example is Soros often understating his involvement in various causes buy being way too casual in his comments, as in this OWS case.

“Actually I can understand their sentiment, frankly,” he told reporters while announcing a large donation to the United Nations. “I can sympathize with their grievances.”

While not exactly false modesty, it's a kind of diminution of his involvement in a very similar way.

And just about anyone who had anything to do with the credit crisis is very modest about their involvement. Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Fannie Mae, all the people who encouraged the millions of loans that had no chance of being repaid have turned into gently well-meaning almost-bystanders.

Pitt T. Maner III comments:

 False modesty could be a means of minimizing the potential backlash caused by delivering false opinions to the public (while taking the opposite side on the trade). Also it may lower the mental costs of engaging in the deception and manipulation of others ("that's what I believed at the time too").

1) New book out by Robert Trivers entitled The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life may be of interest.

2) From a recent review:

In “The Folly of Fools” Robert Trivers, an American evolutionary biologist, explains that the most effectively devious people are often unaware of their deceit. Self-deception makes it easier to manipulate others to get ahead. Particularly intelligent people can be especially good at deceiving themselves.

All of this deceit comes at a price. Mr Trivers suggests that the most cunning people (whether conscious fibbers or not) tend to benefit at the expense of everyone else. He highlights the way overconfident Wall Street traders may hurt investors and taxpayers at little personal risk. Then there are politicians who spin stories of national greatness to bolster support for costly wars in which they will not be fighting.'

3) Consider this paper from von Hippel and Trivers:

Abstract:

to conscious deception that might reveal deceptive intent. Self-deception has two additional advantages: It eliminates the costly cognitive load that is typically associated with deceiving, and it can minimize retribution if the deception is discovered. Beyond its role in specific acts of deception, self-deceptive self-enhancement also allows people to display more confidence than is warranted, which has a host of social advantages. The question then arises of how the self can be both deceiver and deceived. We propose that this is achieved through dissociations of mental processes, including conscious versus unconscious memories, conscious versus unconscious attitudes, and automatic versus controlled processes. Given the variety of methods for deceiving others, it should come as no surprise that self-deception manifests itself in a number of different psychological processes, and we discuss various types of self-deception. We then discuss the interpersonal versus intrapersonal nature of self-deception before considering the levels of consciousness at which the self can be deceived. Finally, we contrast our evolutionary approach to self-deception with current theories and debates in psychology and consider some of the costs associated with self-deception.In this article we argue that self-deception evolved to facilitate interpersonal deception by allowing people to avoid the cues

 4) Dr. Trivers is making the speaking rounds to promote his new book, about which there is probably lively debate.

About Dr. Trivers:

Robert L. Trivers (born February 19, 1943) is an American evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist and Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. Trivers is most noted for proposing the theories of reciprocal altruism (1971), parental investment (1972), facultative sex ratio determination (1973), and parent-offspring conflict (1974). Other areas in which he has made influential contributions include an adaptive view of self-deception (first described in 1976) and intragenomic conflict. Trivers is arguably one of the most influential evolutionary theorists alive today. Steven Pinker considers Trivers to be "one of the great thinkers in the history of Western thought". Says Pinker, Robert Trivers has:

"inspired an astonishing amount of research and commentary in psychology and biology—the fields of sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, Darwinian social science, and behavioral ecology are in large part attempt to test and flesh out Trivers' ideas. It is no coincidence that E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology and Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene were published in 1975 and 1976 respectively, just a few years after Trivers' seminal papers. Both bestselling authors openly acknowledged that they were popularizing Trivers' ideas and the research they spawned. Likewise for the much-talked-about books on evolutionary psychology in the 1990s— The Adapted Mind, The Red Queen, Born to Rebel, The Origin of Virtue, The Moral Animal, and my own How the Mind Works. Each of these books is based in large part on Trivers' ideas and the explosion of research they inspired (involving dozens of animal species, mathematical and computer modeling, and human social and cognitive psychology)."

By the way, he will be speaking at a meetup in LA next week.

5) True modesty is a discerning grace, and only blushes in the proper place; But counterfeit is blind, and skulks through fear, Where 'tis a shame to be asham'd t' appear: Humility the parent of the first, The last by vanity produc'd and nurs'd. - William Cowper

Pitt T. Maner III continues:

A statement from Dr. Trivers (in light of his controversial views, past associations, and strange biography) catches the eye:

Interviewer: "Are you a self-deceiver?"

Trivers: I end the book with a chapter on fighting our own self-deception. I've been remarkably unsuccessful in my own case. I just repeat the same kinds of mistakes over and over. If you ask me about my self-deception, I can give you stories, chapter and verse, in the past. But can I prevent myself doing the same damn thing again tomorrow? Usually not, though in my professional life as a scientist, I feel that I probably practice less self-deception, I'm more critical of evidence, a little bit harder nosed.

Interviewer: You could be deceiving yourself about that.

Trivers: Absolutely."


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4 Comments so far

  1. steve on November 1, 2011 9:26 pm

    great call chair Uriah Heep is far to umble. From David Copperfield. Fantastic movie. However my favorite character is Mr. Dick. or Mr Micawber. W.C. Fields gave a performance for the ages.

  2. James Starr on November 1, 2011 10:03 pm

    Where the activity requires skill but the participant lacks skill, then bravado is the order of the day. When the participant has well exceeded their abilities, and know it, then false modesty shines. It is a kind of keeping your head down strategy, lest people notice your inadequacies.

  3. Matthew on November 2, 2011 10:18 pm

    A TED talk recently given by Pamela Meyer entitled: “HOW TO SPOT A LIAR”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_6vDLq64gE&feature=player_embedded

    Fascinating science on spotting a liar.

    (Sorry for the slightly off topic reply)

  4. steve on November 3, 2011 8:52 pm

    I watched the video on liars. tank you very much for that. I learned something about lying and posted it to my facebook.

    Please add me as a friend. I welcome the new friendship.

    SL.

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