Why We Lie

The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind

David Livingstone Smith

St. Martin's Press

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Deceit, lying, and falsehoods lie at the very heart of our cultural heritage. Even the founding myth of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the story of Adam and Eve, revolves around a lie. We have been talking, writing and singing about deception ever since Eve told God, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." Our seemingly insatiable appetite for stories of deception spans the extremes of culture from King Lear to Little Red Riding Hood, retaining a grip on our imaginations despite endless repetition. These tales of deception are so enthralling because they speak to something fundamental in the human condition. The ever-present possibility of deceit is a crucial dimension of all human relationships, even the most central: our relationships with our very own selves.

Now, for the first time, philosopher and evolutionary psychologist David Livingstone Smith elucidates the essential role that deception and self-deception have played in human--and animal--evolution and shows that the very structure of our minds has been shaped from our earliest beginnings by the need to deceive. Smith shows us that by examining the stories we tell, the falsehoods we weave, and the unconscious signals we send out, we can learn much about ourselves and how our minds work.

Readers of Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker will find much to intrigue them in this fascinating book, which declares that our extraordinary ability to deceive others--and even our own selves--"lies" at the heart of our humanity.

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WHY WE LIE
1Natural-Born LiarsLying is universal--we all do it; we all must do it.--Mark Twain 
 
Mel dug furiously with her bare hands to extract the large succulent corm from the rock-hard Ethiopian ground. It was the dry season and food was scarce. Corms are edible bulbs rather like onions, and are a staple during these long hard months. Little Paul sat nearby and surreptitiously observed Mel's labors out of the corner of his eye. Paul's mother was out of sight. She had left him to play in the long grass; but, he was secure in the knowledge that she would remain within earshot

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Reviews

Praise for Why We Lie

"Why We Lie is written with snap, panache, and the sort of insights that stop you in your tracks. Its subject--deception, trickery, pulling a fast one, conning other humans and conning ourselves--is critical to understanding the evolution of the human mind. Getting a handle on deception is crucial to understanding the self with which you and I live from second to second every minute of our conscious and our dreaming lives."
- Howard Bloom, author of Global Brain and The Lucifer Principle

"David Smith has pulled off a beaut. Freud, Darwin, Machiavelli (and, oh yes, Liz Smith) meet around the poker table of life. Why We Lie is a wonderfully blended cluster of arguments to support the painful truth that we are a species whose skills at deceiving others is matched only by our ability to deceive ourselves."
- Arthur S. Reber, author of The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology and The New Gambler's Bible

"Self-deception is one of the most powerful ideas in psychology, indeed, in human affairs, and David Smith's Why We Lie is an excellent synthesis of this crucial topic. The biology is up-to-date and accurate, the psychological implications are clearly worked out, and the writing is inviting and accessible."
- Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Blank Slate and The Language Instinct

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About the Author

David Livingstone Smith

David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D., is currently a professor of philosophy and co-founder and director of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of New England. He has published widely in the areas of deception and self-deception. A longtime professor in London, he now lives in Scarborough, Maine.

David Livingstone Smith

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Available Formats and Book Details

Why We Lie
The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
David Livingstone Smith

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
August 2007
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466821507
ISBN10: 1466821507
256 pages
$9.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
August 2007
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312310400
ISBN10: 0312310404
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 256 pages
$16.99
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