chapter 2 consumers lie

French Enlightenment writer Voltaire encapsulates self-deception wonderfully with the line, ‘Illusion is the first of all pleasures.1

Lying makes life better

Self-deception is a drug most of us mainline, numbing us to the harsh realities of life. For example, we are not as intelligent, smart, creative or honest as we think we are. This applies to ordinary abilities as well. Answer this question for me: Are you a below average, average or above-average driver? Forty years ago a study found that 93 per cent of Americans put themselves in the above-average category when it comes to driving ability, with only 7 per cent rating themselves as below average.2 This finding has been repeated many times, and across many types of behaviours. It's called ‘illusory superiority' and many of us suffer from it. In short, you think you're better than others, but it's an illusion; you're not.

Illusory superiority is also known as the above-average effect, the superiority bias, the leniency error, the sense of relative superiority and the primus inter pares effect. Self-deception is also manifest when considering harsh realities about the future. Put your hand up if you want to chat about how the world needs to respond when confronting climate change. As Al Gore declared, it's an inconvenient truth. How about the problem of wealth inequality? I'd guess that even reading about these challenges makes you feel uncomfortable.

Humans have an incredible ability for self-deception. ...

Get Stop Listening to the Customer now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.