Brain easily accommodates hypocrisy, deceit

    Two area experts are blaming our brains for hypocrisy and deceit.

    A Philadelphia psychologist says compartments in the brain allow people to hold conflicting thoughts and opinions. And that may be the key to hypocrisy.


    Evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban describes the human brain as having separate sections that control different beliefs. Sometimes these modules contradict each other.

    “The mind consists of a large number of what I call modules, that have different jobs to do,” said Kurzban. “Because you have these different systems with different jobs, sometimes these jobs conflict. “

    Kurzban, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, said those contradictions can lead to hypocrisy.

    “So you have one part of your head that leads you to condemn other people when they violate a set of moral rules. But at the same time in your head you have mechanisms that are designed to cause you to do things which bring you certain kinds of advantages,” said Kurzban, the author of “Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite.”

    “That kind of conflict can lead to people doing the very things they say ought to be condemned.”

    As if that weren’t enough, another area researcher believes our brains are wired to deceive, especially ourselves.

    Anthropologist and biologist Robert Trivers says it raises a perplexing question.

    ““That’s been a long-standing problem in human thought: Why on earth would we lie to ourselves?” said Trivers.

    Humans reveal their lies through body language and speech patterns.  Trivers said when we deceive ourselves, we don’t display those mannerisms.

    “We lie to ourselves the better to fool others,” said Trivers, a Rutgers University professor. “If you lie to yourself first, then those avenues of deception will be unavailable to someone else. “

    Trivers said the goal of the self-deception is to look better in the eyes of others.

    “We’re in the business of self-inflation. We’re better looking than we really are, we’re smarter, we’re more useful, we’re more moral.” said the author of the new book “The Folly of Fools.”

    “And insofar as we actually believe that, we’re apt to be more effective at transmitting the illusion to others,” said Trivers.

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