The Hidden Power of Self-Deception
Joe Hallinan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose lively books, Why We Make Mistakes and Kidding Ourselves, explore the power of perception, the science of human error, and the flexibility of the mind. His engaging talks—which are applicable to nearly any industry—delve into psychology, neuroscience, economics, consumer behavior, financial strategy, and more.
We often don’t see what’s right in front of us. We forget things in seconds. And most of us are pretty sure we’re way above average. Humans, by design, are prone to error. In Why We Make Mistakes, “a vastly informative, and for some readers vastly reassuring, exploration of the way our minds work” (Booklist, starred review), Joe Hallinan explores the reasons behind our mistakes, and how we can do better. His new book, Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception, grew out of the idea that people often make mistakes because they are kidding themselves about one thing or another. But, as it turns out, there are good kinds of self-deception as well as bad kinds of self-deception. The good kinds—hope, faith, confidence, and even superstition—can be very valuable in propelling our way to success.
“Insightful information about how our minds can be tricked, and some ways to get around it.”— Wired Magazine on Why We Make Mistakes
Hallinan is also the author of Going Up the River: Travels in Prison Nation, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. He was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and The Indianapolis Star, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Before that he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a visiting professor at Vanderbilt University.
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 this talk, Joseph Hallinan offers a nuts-and-bolts look at how this shapes our everyday lives, from the medicines we take to the decisions we make. He shows us, 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. Hallinan brings together a variety of subjects, linking seemingly unrelated ideas in fascinating and unexpected ways. And ultimately, he shows us 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, this talk is an extraordinary new exploration of our mind’s flexibility.
Why do otherwise intelligent people make obvious mistakes? Why are we so easily distracted? Why do we often miss what’s right in front of our eyes? Why do we make mistakes? And could we do a little better? Joe Hallinan sets out to explore the captivating science of human error—how we think, see, remember and forget. In a highly customized talk, full of anecdotes, relevant studies and tips you can use immediately (such as how to remember where you left your keys, and why multi-tasking is a bad idea), Hallinan shows us that some of the same qualities that make us efficient also make us error-prone. How to prevent these errors—how to anticipate and then “outsmart” them—are at the heart of this engaging, entertaining and interactive talk.