Self-deception is the act of lying to yourself. You have likely noticed this puzzling behavior in others, that is, cases in which people apparently believe something that they must know is false. This behavior does not include exaggeration, faking, or simple lying—those are cases in which the individual is well aware of uttering a falsehood. Instead, self-deception is something deeper and more complicated, even paradoxical.

Consider some typical examples. An otherwise pleasant young man drinks too much alcohol but gets angry if anyone suggests he has a drinking problem. He refuses to believe he is an alcoholic even though the evidence is obvious: Empty bottles are hidden throughout his apartment, and his boss has often sent him home for drinking on the job. Again, it does ...

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