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Distinguished Science Lecture Series Archives

Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception & and the Unconscious Mind

David Livingstone Smith

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. Our seemingly insatiable appetite for stories of deception spans the extremes of culture from King Lear to Little Red Riding Hood. 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.

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. Book signing to follow lecture.

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