From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Why We Make Mistakes, an illuminating exploration of human beings’ astonishing ability to deceive themselves.
To one degree or another, we all misjudge reality. Our perception—of ourselves and the world around us—is much more malleable than we realize. This self-deception influences every major aspect of our personal and social life, including relationships, sex, politics, careers, and health.
In Kidding Ourselves, Joseph Hallinan offers a nuts-and-bolts look at how this penchant shapes our everyday lives, from the medicines we take to the decisions we make. It shows, for instance, just how much the power of many modern medicines, particularly anti-depressants and painkillers, is largely in our heads. Placebos in modern-day life extend beyond hospitals, to fake thermostats and “elevator close” buttons that don’t really work…but give the perception that they do.
Kidding Ourselves brings together a variety of subjects, linking seemingly unrelated ideas in fascinating and unexpected ways. And ultimately, it shows that deceiving ourselves is not always negative or foolish. As increasing numbers of researchers are discovering, it can be incredibly useful, providing us with the resilience we need to persevere, in the boardroom, bedroom, and beyond.
Provocative, accessible, and easily applicable to multiple facets of everyday life, Kidding Ourselves is an extraordinary new exploration of our mind’s flexibility.
It can be difficult to believe how vastly different our own view of reality can be from others', but that is exactly what Hallinan (Why We Make Mistakes) tries to get to the core of in his latest book. The Pulitzer Prize winning author presents an abundance of evidence on how people's perceptions can vary, and also how easily they can deceive themselves. Take, for example, the citizens of a small town outside of Chicago: one night a woman believed she had been briefly paralyzed by a man using an anesthetic gas. Once it made news headlines similar incidents were reported with increasing frequency each day. No suspect was ever found, however, and when police called the reports "a case of mass delusion," the attacks completely stopped. People truly believed they had been attacked, but according to Hallinan "we are copycats." While the studies he presents will entertain any reader, such as why some people really do die of a broken heart or why your boss really is just a jerk, few really astonish. Hallinan's attempts to legitimize his anecdotes through research and experiment fall flat and often amount to obvious explanations. Nevertheless, it's accessible pop science that provides a good laugh and some great dinner conversation.