Books

Useful Delusions

From the New York Times best-selling author and host of Hidden Brain comes a thought-provoking look at the role of self-deception in human flourishing.

Read an excerpt from Useful Delusions

Useful Delusions Book Talks

Events listed here are online and open to the public. Check back for updates.

  • March 2 / Washington, DC
  • 7:00PM — Sixth & I
  • ONLINE ONLY

Self-deception does terrible harm to us, to our communities, and to the planet. But if it is so bad for us, why is it ubiquitous? In Useful Delusions, Shankar Vedantam and Bill Mesler argue that, paradoxically, self-deception can also play a vital role in our success and well-being.

The lies we tell ourselves sustain our daily interactions with friends, lovers, and coworkers. They can explain why some people live longer than others, why some couples remain in love and others don’t, why some nations 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 what it really means to be human.

Ingenious…A passionate, often counterintuitive, disturbingly convincing addition to the why-people-believe-stupid-things genre.

— Kirkus Reviews

The Hidden Brain

The hidden brain is the voice in our ear when we make the most important decisions in our lives—but we’re never aware of it. The hidden brain decides whom we fall in love with and whom we hate. It tells us to vote for the white candidate and convict the dark-skinned defendant, to hire the thin woman but pay her less than the man doing the same job. It can direct us to safety when disaster strikes and move us to extraordinary acts of altruism. But it can also be manipulated to turn an ordinary person into a suicide terrorist or a group of bystanders into a mob.

In a series of compulsively readable narratives, Shankar Vedantam journeys through the latest discoveries in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral science to uncover the darkest corner of our minds and its decisive impact on the choices we make as individuals and as a society. Filled with fascinating characters, dramatic storytelling, and cutting-edge science, this is an engrossing exploration of the secrets our brains keep from us—and how they are revealed.