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‘Kidding Ourselves’ shows the rational side of self-deception

Pulitzer winner explores superstitions and more

By
5:00pm, July 12, 2014

Kidding Ourselves
Joseph T. Hallinan
Random House, $25

People believe the darnedest things — despite doubts, common sense and even evidence to the contrary. For example, a large majority of people are convinced that they drive better than others do, which of course isn’t possible. We can’t all be above average, no matter what Garrison Keillor says.

Hallinan, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, argues that all manner of strange beliefs distort people’s perceptions and give rise to strong expectations, overconfidence, superstitions or just a rosy view of oneself. These beliefs are not all bad. Take, for instance, the placebo effect. When researchers gave some people fake acupuncture with toothpicks and poked others with real needles, the groups reported about equal

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