Why are we wrong? The usefulness of this psychological phenomenon

Obviously, we have all, to a greater or lesser extent, tried to be wrong at some point in our lives.

But what is the reason for this phenomenon? What’s the point of trying to fool the one person who knows everything about us, what we’re thinking every moment and our future intentions? In this article, we’ll try to answer these and other questions.

    Why do we make mistakes on a daily basis?

    Aristotle said that man is a rational animal, and in fact he is. But that does not prevent us from counting among our beliefs some irrational, which already gives us some clues as to why we are wrong.

    Indeed, sometimes we prefer to give up facts and rationality and adopt meaningless reasoning and that they defy all logic, trying to convince themselves of it.

    You have to be clear about the difference between lying and self-deception, and that is that in lying, there is an important element that changes everything: we know that what we are saying is not true. In other words, there is an awareness of the validity of the argument (we know it is false).

    However, with self-deception we are not aware, but despite the clues we have to the contrary, we have accepted as truth something that is not.

    This is another reason why we are wrong, and is that it is a much more powerful mechanism than pure lying, because by not being aware of it, its effects can become much more profound, To adhere to the fallacious reasoning which engendered it in the beginning and therefore to believe that it is a truth, when in fact it is not.

    In short, the question of why we fool ourselves is answered in a simple way: why a simple but very effective mechanism for certain effects on ourselves in a fast way. We will understand this very well in the next point, exploring the different ways in which we have to go wrong.

    Forms of self-deception

    To understand why we are wrong, it is necessary to know the utilities offered by the different types of self-deception that exist. Therefore, we will break down this concept according to its typology.

    1.adaptive self-deception

    Probably one of the most common types. In this case, why we are wrong is simple, and it would be a way of adapting to a situation that differed from the expectations we initially had of it. Maybe it was, for example, a job that we opted for and the conditions attracted us enormously, but once we rejected it, we started to realize that it was not really such a good one. opportunity and we keep finding “But”.

    The truth is, we loved the workplace before and we love it now, however our mind works fast so that the emotional impact is less than not having achieved our goals decreasing our desire and therefore the negative emotions that we experience to be less intense than they would be at the beginning.

    Of course, this can be applied to a multitude of situations including, how could it be otherwise, romantic disappointments. While it is true that in these situations many other factors come into play, it is always curious how different a person’s outlook is before and after a disappointment in love, and here self-deception has. much to say.

      2. Avoid cognitive dissonance

      When there is no match between what we feel, believe, and think, and our actions (our behavior), a disorder called cognitive dissonance occurs. One of the ways our brain has to anticipate these unpleasant sensations so that they don’t manifest, or do so in a more subtle way, is self-deception, so here we have another powerful reason that answers what we are wrong.

      Accepting a contradiction between our values, our ideals, our beliefs, with what we really do, comes at a very high cost for our mind. This is why self-deception is a perfect escape valve to let us see that in reality these values ​​are flexible in certain situations, or that the actions we take are not as different from what we think. than we might believe. A first moment.

      Obviously, this is a patch that will work for a while, but this repeated behavior will eventually lead to cognitive dissonance to the surface and the self-deception will definitely lose its effect, as a difference between thinking cannot. not be maintained forever. it has repercussions on our mind.

      3. Locus of control

      We’ve all heard (or maybe even said) the words “I passed” as opposed to “I was suspended”. They may seem similar at first glance, but they hide a very important difference, which refers to the locus of control. In the first case, that of the approved, the individual speaks in the first person, therefore using an internal locus of control, that is to say that he has approved on his own merits.

      However, in the second example, a third person is used in a veiled fashion, “I was suspended”, clearly indicating that the outcome was beyond his control and was a consequence of another person’s decision, in this. case, the teacher. Here, the locus of control would be external, so what we do is unnecessary, because our actions do not change the end result.

      This is a very clear example of why we are wrong, and is that sometimes we do this to eliminate our share of responsibility for an event that has occurred, Make the internal locus of control external when in fact it does not. Neither the marking of the exam was unfair, nor is the teacher obsessed with the student, or anything like that.

      The real reason the person was (not) suspended is because they did not study enough. Also, the most curious of this example is that it is much less common to hear the reverse formulas: “I suspended” or “I was approved”, because we always tend to give ourselves credit in the cases. victories and to seek excuses (self-deception) in defeats.

        4. Distortion of reality

        Sometimes, and depending on certain characteristics of the individual, a phenomenon may occur which brings self-deception to its maximum expression. can happen in the event that the person explains a false fact to another subject, they may know that it is really a lie or even believe it in some way.

        The point, in this case, is that this lie begins to be repeated and generalized, so that the person who initiated it may come to assume it to be true. In other words, the promoter of the fake data ends up assuming that this information is true and begins to act on it, assuming that the facts happened this way and not otherwise. He first builds the story, then the story surprises him himself, without forgiveness.

        This distortion can start with a simple exaggeration in the telling of a story, the addition of certain details that differ from the truth, or even complete inventions. In this type of person, the reason we deceive ourselves has another answer, which does not apply to other individuals, and is that for them it is a way of to build a reality that never happened, but that they assume as if it were so.

        When we talk about this level of self-deception, we might already be faced with a symptom of different psychological disorders that affect the personality of the individual, such as Narcissistic Disorder, BPD, or Histrionic Disorder. In all of them, among many other characteristics, very marked forms of self-deception can be observed and sometimes easily detected in their stories.


        After going through the different answers to the question of why we are wrong, we have found very different but all powerful motivations to carry out this action, because we have found that, to a greater or lesser extent, they are an improvement in our feeling, stability, elimination or reduction of the negative component.

        What should also be clear is that self-deception is something that occurs automatically in all individuals, and can be gentle and adaptive on many occasions, but is also seen in a much more aggressive version when it is part of a personality disorder.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Borges, MRH (2007). The etiology of Am I pretending to be wrong or are my mechanisms fooling me? Theorem: International Journal of Philosophy.
        • Saab, S. (2011). Means of self-deception and reasoning: theories of the double process. Philosophical analysis.
        • Trivers, R. (1991). Deception and deception: the relationship between communication and consciousness. Man and Beast Revisited, ed. M. Robinson and TL Tiger.
        • Trivers, R. (2013). The madness of fools. The logic of deception and self-deception in human life. Buenos Aires. Katz Publishers.

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