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Useful Delusions

The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain

April 2021

Shankar Vedantam (Author), Bill Mesler (Author)


From The New York Times best-selling author and host of Hidden Brain comes a counterintuitive, thought-provoking exploration of deception’s role in human success.

Everyone agrees that lies and self-deception can do terrible harm to our lives, to our communities and to the planet. But in Useful Delusions, host of Hidden Brain Shankar Vedantam argues that, paradoxically, deceiving ourselves and others can also play a vital role in human success and well-being.

The lies we tell each other and the lies that we tell ourselves sustain our daily interactions with friends, lovers and co-workers. They explain why some people live longer than others, why some couples remain in love and others don’t, why some nations and tribes hold together while others splinter. Filled with powerful personal stories and drawing on new insights in psychology, neuroscience and philosophy, Useful Delusions offers a fascinating tour of an upside-down world.


"A lively and digestible book... Perhaps the book’s most important point advises how to combat destructive delusions." — The Wall Street Journal

"In this scientifically informed, provocative and stylish study of self-deception, written with journalist Bill Mesler, [Shankar Vedantam] explores the risks and benefits of the lies we tell ourselves to preserve self-worth, relationships and social structures." — Andrew Robinson, Five of the Week's Best Science Picks, Nature

"Powerful… [Vedantam] explains the phenomenon of deceit in general, and self-deception in particular, with the same plain language and gentle authority that his listeners have come to rely on." — Katie Hafner, The Washington Post

"Vedantam and Mesler pepper hard data with compelling stories to make their case. Vedantam’s empathy and intuitive understanding of human nature, which shine on his popular “Hidden Brain” podcast, come through in ‘Useful Delusions’." — The New York Times Book Review

Also By: Bill Mesler View all by author...



160 x 239 mm • 264 pages


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