Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain (Paperback)
A Behavioral Scientist Notable Book of 2021
A Next Big Idea Club Best Nonfiction of 2021
From the New York Times best-selling author and host of Hidden Brain comes a thought-provoking look at the role of self-deception in human flourishing.
Self-deception does terrible harm to us, to our communities, and to the planet. But if it is so bad for us, why is it ubiquitous? In Useful Delusions, Shankar Vedantam and Bill Mesler argue that, paradoxically, self-deception can also play a vital role in our success and well-being.
The lies we tell ourselves sustain our daily interactions with friends, lovers, and coworkers. They can explain why some people live longer than others, why some couples remain in love and others don’t, why some nations hold together while others splinter.
Filled with powerful personal stories and drawing on new insights in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, Useful Delusions offers a fascinating tour of what it really means to be human.
Bill Mesler is the coauthor of A Brief History of Creation. He lives in Washington, DC.
— Katie Hafner - Washington Post
Vedantam and Mesler pepper hard data with compelling stories to make their case. Vedantam’s empathy and intuitive understanding of human nature, which shine on his popular 'Hidden Brain' podcast, come through in Useful Delusions.
— Tali Sharot - New York Times Book Review
A lively and digestible book…Perhaps the book’s most important point advises how to combat destructive delusions.
— Matthew Hutson - Wall Street Journal
[A] scientifically informed, provocative and stylish study of self-deception.
— Andrew Robinson - Nature
Useful Delusions takes us on a fascinating, enlightening tour of the human mind.
— Karen R. Koenig - New York Journal of Books
Ingenious…A passionate, often counterintuitive, disturbingly convincing addition to the why-people-believe-stupid-things genre.
— Kirkus Reviews
This excellent narrative nonfiction work will engage a variety of readers, and is a solid choice for book clubs who like to discuss current events.
— Library Journal (starred review)