A New Kind of Deception?

Deception is the backbone of my work. I'm fascinated both by its practical applications to the world of entertainment — creating a a profound sense of astonishment by doing things that appear at first glance to be impossible — and by how that knowledge can be turned on its head so people can learn to arm themselves against being deceived by others.

In a recent post on the Scientific American Blog, they discussed a kind of deception I had never heard of; the blue lie

Little White Lies, I've heard of. Those are the lies you tell to someone to spare their feelings; lies told out of compassion. Dark lies are told for selfish reasons — to protect yourself from blame or to mislead others. 

As an aside, I almost blew right by one of the most profound insights in the entire piece. 

Children start to tell selfish lies at about age three, as they discover adults cannot read their minds...

The fact that we have a silent monologue that only we can hear. The fact that our thoughts stay contained within our own skulls and aren't accessible to the outside world. This is something that has to be learned! The things about the brain that we take for granted.

The new variety, the blue lie, is a lie which is selfish and harmful while being beneficial to an in-group. Here again, the article about deception is offered in relation to T**** and his nasty habit of prevarication. It's an interesting theory to explain. But it also applies to groups like government spy agencies, which deceive for the benefit of the nation's citizens. Wonderful food for thought.

Stephen Pinker explained years ago in a talk that the notion that we ought to believe things because they are true is a relatively new notion. Mainly we profess beliefs as a way of showing allegiance; that "I'm on your side." 

Deception on The Infinite Monkey Cage

There is a delightful BBC Radio Podcast called The Infinite Monkey Cage, with theme song by Eric Idle and hosted by Robert Ince and Brian Cox (the guy Stephen Hawking pushed into the river on the Monty Python reunion show.)

This is the episode from January 19, 2015, entitled Deception. It's available on iTunes or from the BBC.

No one does the panel discussion as well as the Brits and it's a very interesting discussion. And includes a magician and respected academic, Richard Wiseman.

One of the most intriguing things they mention, which I don't hear discussed very often, is that we are not very good at knowing when we are being deceived. There is a natural tendency to both accept things at face value, and to assume others will accept things at face value.

It also turns out that many of the "tricks" you are supposed to be able to use to detect deceptions (facial ticks and other visual cues) don't really work.

I guest listener be warned.