Shankar Vedantam on the harms and benefits of self-deception

A man and an image of his book's cover.
Shankar Vendantum is the host of Hidden Brain and the author of the new book, “Useful Delusions.”
Photo by Douglas Sonders | Courtesy images

Lies can be deadly. We saw it in 2020, when vast swaths of society downplayed or even denied the reality of the pandemic. We saw it at the start of this year, when lies about a stolen election caused a small but militant group to storm the U.S. Capitol.

But not all self-deception is deadly. In fact, many social scientists believe it does more good than harm. So how can we know the difference? How can we know that a little white lie isn’t preventing us from seeing a big ugly truth?

That’s the question Hidden Brain podcast host Shankar Vedantam set out to answer. His new book, “Useful Delusions,” draws on the latest research from psychology, neuroscience and philosophy to reveal the power of human self-deception. 

Vedantam joined MPR News host Kerri Miller on Tuesday to talk about his book and the lies we tell ourselves. 

Guest:

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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