Self-deception: A concept in search of a phenomenon.
The concept of self-deception has received little empirical investigation despite its broad implications for theories of personality and consciousness. Four criteria, based on a logico-linguistic analysis, are presented as necessary and sufficient for ascribing self-deception: To be self-deceived an individual must hold 2 contradictory beliefs; these beliefs are held simultaneously; one belief is not subject to awareness; and the nonawareness of this belief is motivated. Two experiments are described that examined whether misidentifications of the voices of oneself and others fulfill these criteria and are, therefore, instances of self-deception. In Exp I, it was found that when Ss (60 undergraduates) were incorrect in their self-report identifications of voices, at some level of processing correct identifications had been made, and these Ss held contradictory beliefs. Obtrusive and unobtrusive measures indicate that Ss were not aware of committing errors. Correlational data supported the contention that the errors were motivated. In Exp II, the hypothesized motivational contexts for the errors were manipulated by giving Ss (60 undergraduates) pretreatments either of success or of failure. As predicted, the failure group committed more misidentifications of self, whereas the success group committed more misidentifications of others. Overall, the findings confirm that some misidentifications of voices of self and others are instances of self-deception.