cover image Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception

Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception

Joseph T. Hallinan. Crown, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-34868-3

It can be difficult to believe how vastly different our own view of reality can be from others’, but that is exactly what Hallinan (Why We Make Mistakes) tries to get to the core of in his latest book. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author presents an abundance of evidence on how people’s perceptions can vary, and also how easily they can deceive themselves. Take, for example, the citizens of a small town outside of Chicago: one night a woman believed she had been briefly paralyzed by a man using an anesthetic gas. Once it made news headlines similar incidents were reported with increasing frequency each day. No suspect was ever found, however, and when police called the reports “a case of mass delusion,” the attacks completely stopped. People truly believed they had been attacked, but according to Hallinan “we are copycats.” While the studies he presents will entertain any reader, such as why some people really do die of a broken heart or why your boss really is just a jerk, few really astonish. Hallinan’s attempts to legitimize his anecdotes through research and experiment fall flat and often amount to obvious explanations. Nevertheless, it’s accessible pop science that provides a good laugh and some great dinner conversation. (June)