Casanova on Innocence

Tyler Cowen offers a quote on innocence by Casanova:

The girl’s quick mind, unrefined by study, sought to have the advantage of being considered pure and airless; it was conscious of this, and it made use of this consciousness to further its ends; but such a mind had given me too strong an impression of its cleverness.

That is from History of My Life. Is that why human self-deception has evolved?  If we don’t know our own artifices, we can more successfully conceal them from others.

Yes, we self-deceive to gain advantages from innocence.

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  • Stuart Armstrong

    Yes, we self-deceive to gain advantages from innocence.

    Do you really feel that the advantage of appearing innocent is so huge that it justifies self-deceit? (in the evolutionary past when this would have been relvant). And what sort of people would benefit the most from appearing innocent, and would be least harmed by the self deceit?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    Stuart, self-deception is clearly an evolved feature of our minds, we gain large advantages from innocence, and self-deception is required for innocence. So yes.

  • http://amnap.blogspot.com/ Matthew C

    Robin,

    Some supporting links would probably help convince Stuart.

  • http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb Barkley Rosser

    Robin,

    Did you post this because Tyler compared you to Casanova?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    Barkely, that was not my conscious motivation, but I am large; I contain multitudes.

  • http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb Barkley Rosser

    Hmmm, well, hopefully you will not be jailed for witchcraft for criticizing established opinion. OTOH, maybe you will do something really publicly worthwhile, and I bet Bee would urge some private companies to recompense you handsomely if you succeeded, namely discover a new and improved condom design, :-).

  • http://www.mindsandmarkets.com Khurram Naik

    See Robert Triver’s thoughts on the evolutionary logic of self-deception: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/trivers04/trivers04_index.html

  • http://www.hereticatthegates.blogspot.com will mcbride

    So what are those advantages of deceit? Evolutionary logic points to a positive-sum game. So what benefit to we gain from being deceived by others? I believe it is trust. Here’s more:
    http://hereticatthegates.blogspot.com/2007/04/superstition-economy-or-how-self.html

  • Manon de Gaillande

    Self-deceptive behavior is often explained by claims of that kind, i.e. “We want to get but others will help us get if they believe we want it for . People are good at detecting lies, so instead of just claiming we want , we should believe it.” However, why would we be able to detect conscious lies but not self-deception (or, for that matter, honest mistakes)? It doesn’t look much harder (if you examine the claim and not the person), and the benefit should be roughly the same (and increase if we are already good at detecting lies, so that self-deception becomes more common).