The evolutionary necessity of lying

By Razib Khan | December 23, 2011 9:11 am

John Horgan has a long review of Robert Trivers’ long overdue book, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. I really don’t care how well Trivers analyzed the topic, this is such a rich and important issue that I can’t help but think he must have hit some important mines of insight. I haven’t read The Folly of Fools, but I can recommend Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert Trivers. It’s not just a compilation of papers, there are biographical chapters which flesh out the context behind a particular idea at a given time. Trivers also shows up prominently in Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate and Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolutionary Psychology

Comments (3)

  1. A fun and pungent recent interview with Trivers:

    And, you may already know, he co-authored a B&BS target article on the topic earlier this year:

  2. Åse

    I just read it. It is a quick read. It is somewhat depressing, but also very interesting, and he really makes it clear that the idea of deception is evolutionarily deep. (the idea of deception/concealment etc comes up so much in my psych surroundings. I don’t think it always appreciates the depth of why humans conceal parts, and why humans try to detect it). It is interesting to now read Gazzaniga’s “who is in charge”. Because one wonders how much control we have of the deception and self deceptions, or if they happen way before our consciousness. I have a bachelor’s student right now who is doing some work involving deception, and I sent him von Hippel’s and Trivers Behavioral and Brain sciences article which I gather he is using (so that will be interesting read after christmas).

    I need to get his collected papers.

  3. RKU

    Maybe I’ll try to somehow find the time to read this book. Over the last few years I’ve come up with some highly speculative but intriguing ideas in exactly this area, and it will be interesting to see whether Trivers already thought of them all decades ago.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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