Honest liars — the psychology of self-deception: Cortney Warren at TEDxUNLV

Translator: Adrienne Lin
Reviewer: Reiko Bovee Humans are masters of self-deception. We fool ourselves into
believing things that are false and we refuse to believe
things that are true. I was in graduate school when I really started
delving into the topic of self-deception. And it rocked my world. I saw it everywhere, in everyone. We lie to ourselves
about the smallest details, such as how much we really ate today, and why we didn’t list
our actual height and weight on our driver’s license. (Laughter) We lie to reflect our aspirational goals: “I’ll only have
one glass of wine tonight,” – when I know I’m drinking
at least three. (Laughter) We lie to uphold social ideals: “I never have sexual thoughts
with anyone except my spouse,” because that wouldn’t be acceptable. We lie about
our most important life choices, such as why we married who we did,
or chose our given career path. Unfortunately,
for all the romantics out there, love is rarely the full motivation
for those choices. Nowhere was self-deception more obvious
than in my romantic relationships. I was terrified of being left. My fear of abandonment
led me to act in ways that are still hard for me to admit – anxiously awaiting a phone call, driving to see if he was
where he said he would be, asking repeatedly if he loved me. At the time,
I couldn’t have told you any of that, because I wouldn’t have been able to
admit it to myself. At the core, we lie to ourselves because we don’t have enough
psychological strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences
that will follow. That said, understanding
our self-deception is the most effective way
to live a fulfilling life. For when we admit who we really are, we have the opportunity to change. It’s hard to look at this photo and think, “Liars!” (Laughter) But our self-deceptive tendencies
start here. From a very early age we start observing and making conclusions about ourselves
and our environment. Right or wrong, the conclusions we made
affected our identity. As adults, we will most want to lie about how psychologically painful realities
experienced as children affected who we are today. Perhaps you were raised
in a single parent home, in which you were neglected
by your father. You learned
that something was wrong with you – you weren’t smart enough,
attractive enough, athletic enough. You concluded
that to make people love you, you need to be perfect. As an adult, when someone
points out your imperfections, you feel tremendous anxiety
but deny where it comes from. Perhaps you felt ugly as a child because
you were teased for your appearance. You learned to eat
in response to emotional pain. As an adult, you struggle
to maintain a stable weight, because your eating
has very little to do with hunger. Perhaps you watched your parents fight. You learned to avoid conflict. Now, you struggle to admit even
feeling negative emotion. Although each of our specific
childhood learnings will be unique, what we learned will be exemplified
in the lies we tell ourselves as adults. Psychological theories of human nature
can help us understand our self-deception. Sigmund Freud first described lying
through ego-defense mechanisms: Psychological strategies
that protect our egos – our core sense of self – from information that would hurt us. Denial: Refusing to believe
that something is true, even though it is. “I don’t have a problem with alcohol,” – even though I drink everyday. “I’m not jealous,” – even though I secretly check
my partner’s email. Rationalization: Creating a reason to excuse ourselves. “I wouldn’t have yelled at you
if you hadn’t treated me so unfairly,” thereby justifying my yelling. “I know that smoking
isn’t good for my health, but it helps me relax,” thereby justifying my smoking. Projection: Taking an undesirable aspect of ourselves
and ascribing it to someone else. “I’m not like that. You’re like that.” When dating someone
you’ve lost interest in, you say things like, “You’re not ready for this relationship,” when, in fact,
you’re not ready for this relationship and never will be! Pioneers in the cognitive-behavioral
realms describe how our thoughts deceive us through cognitive distortions –
irrational ways we think. Polarized Thinking:
Thinking in extremes. “I will either eat no cookies
or an entire box, because if I eat one cookie, I’ve already blown my diet,
so I might as well keep eating.” Emotional Reasoning: Thinking that our feelings
accurately reflect reality. “I feel hurt; so you must have
done something bad to me.” “I feel stupid;
consequently I am stupid.” Overgeneralization: Taking a single negative event
as an infinite spiral of defeat. After going through a bad breakup,
you think, “I am always going to be alone.” After getting denied a promotion
at work, you think, “I am never going to be successful
in my career.” From an existential perspective, we deceive ourselves
to avoid the Givens of Life – the fundamental realities
of “being human” that we must face. Death – we’re all going to die; Ultimate aloneness – we were born as a single person housed
in a solitary physical body; Meaninglessness – our lives are inherently meaningless
unless we give them meaning; and Freedom – we are responsible for ourselves
because we have the freedom of choice. To avoid confronting these realities,
we frequently lie to ourselves: “I am this way
because of my upbringing;” – thereby deferring responsibility
for my choices. “The bad things on the news
would never happen to me;” – because I am somehow special,
and uniquely protected from harm. “I won’t write a will. I am young.
I’m not going to die anyway;” – thereby denying our mortality. Multicultural and feminist psychologists describe how internalization
of cultural norms affect us. Here, we deceive ourselves by believing what we were culturally conditioned
to believe is true, instead of deciding
what we actually believe is true. Do you compromise yourself
to meet cultural norms? Do you think you need
to look a certain way, be a certain weight, earn a certain income, get married, have children, be religious because you are supposed to or because you believe
that it’s right for you? All of these theories of human nature
help us understand how we deceive ourselves on a daily basis. Why should you care? Self-deception leads to
massive amounts of pain and regret. To avoid being honest, we frequently make choices
with harmful consequences to ourselves and others – we may use drugs, alcohol, eat,
shop, gamble, steal, lie, leave people or pass our emotional baggage down
to those we love the most. Or, we may choose not to change even when we are miserable or causing profound harm
to those around us. Looking back at life with regret
is incredibly painful, because you can’t change
your choices in the past. As I shared earlier, I struggled greatly
in my romantic relationships. I knew that I didn’t feel safe, but I believed
it was my boyfriend’s fault – if he just called me more,
told me he loved me more, then I would feel safe. The truth was there was nothing he could do
to make me feel safe, because my feelings
had nothing to do with him. The reason I didn’t feel safe
is that I learned as a child that people would always leave me, and I lived my life making choices
consistent with that belief. When we don’t take full responsibility
for who we are, we hurt ourselves
and everyone around us. Now what? How do we start acknowledging the lies
we tell ourselves? How do we start
becoming more honest liars? The first step is self-awareness – we become observers of ourselves. When you have a strong
emotional reaction to something, pause. When what you say
doesn’t match how you act, pause. When you’re thinking irrational thoughts, pause. Ask yourself: What does this say about me? Similarly, most of us spend
a tremendous amount of energy trying to get over someone or something
that happened to us. And we generally avoid examining
our contribution to conflict in our lives. When you are unresolved
about something or someone, pause. Ask yourself: What does my reaction to this situation
say about me? As we become more honest and aware, we also become more responsible
for our choices. If we admit that we are insecure
about something – which we all are – we’re now confronted with a choice: to work on our insecurity or not. Whatever we decide, we are now more responsible
for the consequences of our insecurity, because we know better. Not changing when confronted
with the truth is a choice. Although we can’t control
many circumstances we encounter in life, we are responsible
for our reactions to all of them. In that vein, one of the best ways to confront our self-deception is psychotherapy. It is probably the only relationship that you will ever have
in your entire life that exists solely to benefit you. Yet, a great deal of stigma
exists around therapy. People frequently say things like, “I don’t need therapy. It’s only for crazy or weak people
who can’t help themselves.” The truth is, it takes tremendous courage to be completely vulnerable
to another human being. Therapy is truly a gift
if you are courageous enough to accept it. Confronting our self-deception
is a lifelong journey. We change and the world offers us
new opportunities to understand ourselves. There is always more to learn. I was on the perfect path
to be a successful academic. I received tenure
here at UNLV, two years ago. And in about six weeks,
I will be unemployed, because I resigned. Getting tenure and then quitting is about the last thing anyone
would expect from a faculty member. Especially me. I love psychology! I love teaching. I love research.
I love my department. I had an amazing experience at UNLV. But the truth is,
my passion isn’t in academia anymore. To admit that to myself
was brutally painful! Because I had to confront all of my self-deceptive tendencies
and insecurities. “What if I disappoint people? What will my family say? What am I going to do?
What if I can’t support myself? Who am I if I am not a professor? What if my whole life changes!? What if my whole life doesn’t change?” If I had chosen to stay in academia, I would have paid
a huge psychological price. I would have to admit
that I was not strong enough to make different choices for myself
when confronted with the truth. Be more honest liars. Choose to become more honest
about the lies you tell yourself. Use the truth to live
the most fulfilling life for you, because you’ve only got one. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Honest liars — the psychology of self-deception: Cortney Warren at TEDxUNLV

  1. I'm slightly less than two minutes into the talk and I can see that it's the facial expressions that are tearing me apart.  Thank you ever so much.  I would like to think that after 35 years of looking on the inside of you know who I know who I really am.  No secrets here.  No self-deception.  It's against my religion.

  2. During the first 3 minutes she's talking about herself.  No doubt about it.  Looking at you as if she's talking about you.  She's not.  She's talking about herself.  It almost sounds like a brainwashing session.  Check those facial expressions.  She swears she knows what she's talking about.  But she doesn't know what she's talking about.  She wants to impress you with the idea that she knows what she's talking about.  No wonder she got out of academia.

  3. Go ahead.  Do it.  Check out the zombies starring up at her as she goes on and on about self-deception as if it's some kind of new discovery in the field of clinical psychology.  Sigmund Freud?  Give me a break.  The Dalai Lama has already made it clear that his psychology was long ago stuck at the kindergarten level.  He is the authority of what?  Exactly.  Maybe she ought to try another trick.

  4. Bad news, loveboat.  That "core sense of "self" that you say Freud said exists?  It doesn't exist as a reality.  Sorry.  Game's over.  Or did you discover that at this point?  There is no thinker behind the thought.  You did discover that, yes?  Good.  Then you know.  There is no self.  Hence, there can be no self-deception.  If there is no self who is there to deceive?  Now that makes the cheese more binding does it not?  Sorry.  I don't make the rules.  I just point out the rules that are there.

  5. Fair enough.  She lived her life consistent with the core belief that people would always abandon her.  But that's not everybody.  That's her.  Other people don't have that core belief.  Some do, some don't.  That's not "we."  We is everybody.  There's no room for individuals in that collective ideology.

  6. Everyone in her audience is a liar.  She has said as much.  Had I my choice I would give every person in the audience an egg to place in his or her pocket.  I would then say to them, 'do with this egg what you will."

  7. What stones!  We are ALL insecure about something!  How do you know that?  You don't know that!  How can you walk a straight line?  What unmitigated arrogance!  What if it turned out that many of of us are not insecure about anything?

  8. I gave you a lot of my time and effort, Cortney.  It was worth it.  I had to go through your piece three times and very slowly to understand your whole perspective.  It was worth it.  I may even give it one more shot just to be sure I got your whole message.

  9. Although most of what you're speaking of has a lot of truth to it I call b***** you're deceptively normalizing people investing in overpriced therapy sessions ….and the ducks line up! Cha Ching biyotches 🤑😂

  10. This speaker has a lot of courage.  She wiped out most of the contributions that I made on this site.  Now what does that say about who?

  11. She's drop dead gorgeous but I wouldn't like to cross her.

  12. Honesty.  Truth.  Credibility.  Respect.  They are all related.  Lose one and you lose them all.

  13. I didn't even started looking and I know it's gonna be interesting to see a woman talking about deception and lies 🙂

  14. Oh my god! Its the same thing that just happened to me. I went for a master degree and I left, I didnt feel passion for it, I was doing it to not disapointing my family, my boyfriend, my fathers dream… It was painful to see the truth and accept my Own desires…

  15. Every thing I say or think is a lie, at least is inaccurate. I am just really guessing at the truth. I make mistakes all the time. I am wrong most of the time, if not all the time in some ways. So I am worse than I realized and at the same time better than I realized. How do I know which is which? I don't.

  16. "Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?" -Quran 23:115

  17. Ièm not gonna write a will or my family will think I'm suicidal.

  18. She might have sth interesting to say but I can't listen, she sound so pretentious that i can't stand it anymore.

  19. This has been the most impactful talk I’ve listened to. A year later I quit my job and started lliving my purpose. 🙏 thank you Professor.

  20. im not sure this is totally accurate. it feels more like something that is meant to sound good and right, rather then something that is good and right. you can take responsibility for who you are as a person all you want, but the fact is that you didnt make yourself. the world around you did. there are forces at play that are infinitely more powerful then you will ever be. blaming yourself for the way you are isnt going to fix that.

    a much better approach is the power of recognizing negative traits and working to change them. that has nothing to do with "taking responsibility" and has everything to do with making a choice to take a path for self betterment. you can never completely change who you are. if your a jealous person you will always be a jealous person. you can however learn things to mitigate the negative effects of being that way.

    being jealous is only negative because the people who feel the emotion dont yet understand what to do with that feeling. this same argument applies to everything else in life too. the most useful thing in the world is truely learning how to take a negative feeling and gain something positive from it. take a negative situation and use it to produce positive results. there are no good or bad emotions, only good and bad reactions to those emotions. hate, despair, loneliness, jealousy, envy. they all have a purpose.

    i believe that wisdom is often what helps us the most with these kinds of problems and only experience creates wisdom. old people are a treasure that modern people have discarded in mass. it is the elders that contain all the wisdom. they are the ones who often have the solutions to these life problems. it is why you see countries families and people fall apart when they start discarding their old people. you start to see rampant crime, misguided children who turn into criminals as adults. you see wide spread drug use. so many other bad things all because no one wants their mom or grandma in the house. grand parents are the most useful resources any family could ever hope for. children need them as much as they need moms and dads. mom takes care of you, dad provides for you, but grandma and grandpa teach you how to be a person. why? because they have all the wisdom. they have raised a child already, they lived a life already. they have experience in abundance. wisdom. the wisdom to know how to guide and teach a young person. wisdom to know how to best prepare them for the world.

  21. Why do I feel most points you made I can relate to almost all of them 😩

  22. In a nutshell: take responsibility for your own emotions, quit the blame game, dont manipulate others, be self aware.

  23. You mean we can’t blame our problems on the patriarchy or racism?  Thank god I gave up all religions including SJW.  Peace.

  24. Not long ago I had a doctor who was a woman and she had a great bedside manner.  Great smile.  Great everything.  Except doctoring.  She didn't know puke about how to be a doctor.  All she had was the bedside manner.  I had to fire her.  I wanted a doctor not a stage actress.  Are you with me?  I wanted someone who knew how to take care of the problem.  I found one.  Seek and ye shall find is what the man said.  It works.

  25. I think this broad is deceiving herself if she believes she isn't batshit crazy.

  26. Hey I just need some advice…I have some friends that do things that I don’t agree with, and I want to confront them about it…but I stay silent. I hate creating conflict, but I want to stay things. I constantly have anxiety of what might happen or what they might think of me. What should I do? I’d really love some advice. Thanks.

  27. شكرا لمحمود ونور علي أحسن ترجمة عربي ل tedx talk شوفتها لغايه دلوقتي

  28. When you admit to yourself who you truly are then we have the opportunity to change .
    Best thing I have heard recently

  29. Great speech, I would definitely took a therapy session with her …

  30. 759 people need to enroll in a PSYCH 101 course. This woman is spot on!

  31. in a world without self deception or self denial ,people shall die out guilt and other pain we confront. Defense mechanism is at times better for self especially mental stability.

  32. Identifying self truth and self deception have to do with each individual person. What I value and I experienced is wildly different to yours. If people could mind their own business, just accept people as they present themselves, we would all live in a better world. "It's none of [your] business" and "I accept this person as they are" are very difficult things for people to actually truly execute. We are all immensely self centered and would rather see someone jump when we jump, laugh when we laugh, purchase what we purchase, and flail their arms as so when and how we expect them to. People prefer to see mirrors of themselves. If you can't look like someone, you'd better sound and act like them. It's very strange.

  33. Hmm, extremely interesting and relevant to myself. I was on the edge of my seat wanting to see where you went with it. Didn't disappoint really. Actually, I think, you took it the right direction personally, for yourself, but that left the talk a little unsure of what it was offering, I believe, and maybe a little scattered. I also believe these were inevitable. You started a personal spiritual journey, and I could be wrong, but, my experience in life has taught me you can't bring other people with you on that journey, but , more importantly, you started to breach concepts that you simply would not have time to cover fully.

     I was shocked you quit your tenure! I said to myself, "Wow. This girl might be for real.". I have said that about one other person in my life. I am speaking of Truth, nothing romantic:p I am extremely curious to know what happened to you, it's 2019 now. I am certain, once you awoke, your then current relationship could not survive the new you, and you probably were the one to end it. But where you are now professionally, and how your life went from here. The reasons for all this interest will become clear in a moment:), but, first, there was something I am even more curious about in the first 30secs.

    When you said you you started researching it, you, "were amazed! Everyone, everywhere lived like that."… My question is, Was it literally everyone? Did you ever meet a person who didn't engage in self deception?

    Your talk caught my eye because I am such a person. I am not saying I am perfect by any means, but I have lived with this philosophy for over 20yrs since my early 20's. It has delivered everything you said, but there is a major point I feel is also part of that devotion, and that is how alone the journey has been, how it has alienated me from my peers and family, made it nearly impossible to get or sustain employment.(I now run my own business, but it's shaky ground, for now). Interestingly, while it alienates those who know me, it attracts strangers like flies to honey. I never took psychology but I believe I understand the dynamics behind most of these consequences.

    To see someone who sees and is living the benefits of honesty is remarkable for me, truly appreciated and a good feeling somewhere in my spirit I have not felt for a long time, so thank you for that Cortney. My spirituality system's tenents, i.e. mantra, text etc., is not complete but it has been well developed for a while, since the beginning, and has never changed. While you discuss honesty here, for me, honesty is only a sub-ordinate player of the higher and principle, Honor, and as such, honesty becomes imperative for receiving more Truth. Kind of like eating is imperative to reach the goal of staying alive, you don't question or revisit the concept, and you know when you transgress, every time, that you are doing so, and failing yourself more than the benefit you're opting to trade off is not worth it.

     If you are still searching for Truth, I believe I can offer you some information that will give you some weapons and armor. For the shear sake of duty to the Truth, I'm finding I really want a discourse to exchange ideas with you. I have been on YT, consistently, about 2 yrs now, I comment on almost every video I watch. I give long, random, unsolicited opinions like this, lol. I have little interest in whether or not people reply, but I kind of don't want to stop writing, now, haha. I didn't know I wanted to share what I have so strongly until now. I guess it's easy to say that is because I have very rarely had the confidence that the other person would get it. And that ends up hurtful and worse. It was that part you mentioned, how you could not see it back then because you would never admit it to yourself… When you tell someone what you see and they can't admit it to themselves, the logical course is to discredit the person pointing it out. That would be me:p

    Without question you are the best chance for a productive conversation I have had in a long, long time. I hope I have attracted your spirit enough to wish the same. If not, take care, there aren't many of us and we MUST survive. The Truth must lead the way, it will set us all free. Tx Cortney


    I know it's been 5 yrs but this little bit of self deception gave me a chuckle as I thought it was so obvious "Psychotherepy. It is probably the only relationship you will ever have in your life that exists solely to benefit, you."

  34. Cortney, u r great woman I've ever seen! I tried to find your book (about self-liers) in Russian, but found nothing..
    Can you wright me at WhApp? 🙂

  35. Yea. She's got it all right*.. *calling all parents..tell ur 2-8+yr olds that santa doesn't exist, and nobody really knows if once u die, game over. lies, white lies, speculation/theory.., etc…is actually not NECESSARILY A matter of truth, but perspective. Thinking a girl looks terrible in that dress, but saying she looks alright..is perspective. An outright lie..well.. .

  36. my daughter told my wife once that she had to lie so much because I would not believe the truth,,,,,,,,, OK..

    I think for a lot of people that feel they may need to see a counselor to help them understand their life and who they are, may just need to read up on social science and narcissism, this can/may/should help them understand the others in their life as well as themselves,,, hopefully

  37. "Do you deprive yourself to meet cultural norms?" Well yes! Wearing UNCOMFORTABLE high heels is just one way we do it. Hint hint ….

  38. Her talk is super interesting, and she's gorgeous, but her voice inflexions are a little too much.

  39. She's the real life Elizabeth Keen if Reddington never showed up. Great talk!

  40. Damn Dr. Courtney Warren, I'd like to make an appt to discuss with you and your hot self!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You need not worry about a relationship, your way to intelligent and beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. Although this woman is obviously a pioneer for truth, and aims to defeat cognitive distortion, she has made it a literal impossibility for herself to have a normal friendship or relationship. Nature loves a balance, and she definitely sacrificed happiness for righteousness here. In fairness to her, "normal," isn't much better.

  42. self deception is required to make sense of anything, as a limit to cognitive dissonance.If you can stand the dissonance cognitively you can make it a more accurate model.Most people are way small cognitive ability and long long long on feelings.

  43. Yes yes my lady, be honest with others and honest with yourself…

  44. Incredible delivery of so much insight and wonderful content, packed into a very engaging dynamic and REAL Talk. Thank you!!

  45. Psycho therapy benefits the therapist as it is their source of income.  Perhaps they are special so as to keep that from effecting their subconscious reasoning.  Talk about self deception… With that said, this is still a good TED Talk.

  46. Fantastic talk, I'm sure she's going to do great things in or out of acedamya.

  47. I can't take how giving a speech has become performance art, with all the actors overacting.

  48. Anybody with a PowerPoint and a headset is an expert today

  49. @ 1:03.. hhmm actually that has more to do if you are really committed and with the right partner! It has little to do with self deceptions , if you are a cheater you will have those thoughts , if you are with the wrong partner you will have those thoughts

  50. Casually walks to the computer with a crucifix and says: BE GONE! DEMON! What this outstanding woman says is true. I am on my true path now.

  51. This is the best

    Tedtalk I've watched (i thing mainly because it spoke to the inner most part of my being)

  52. But I feel that a certain amount of self-deception is useful and perhaps essential…being honest about the inherent meaninglessness of life can render many of us so despair-laden that we could succumb to hopelessness, helplessness, and even self-destructive reactions. Perhaps religious or spiritual self-deception (certainty that there is a God/purpose/system of right behaviors is a positive thing, for that reason.

  53. Is true strength seeing this video, and wanting to avoid watching it at all costs, but then changing your mind and watching it anyways? XD

  54. Love this, thank you soo much for your time and effort. Watching it again.

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