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C O U R S E 
Buddhism and Modern Psychology
Robert Wright, Princeton University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Delusions of the Self
Notes taken on December 22, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
human beings are very inclined to have a story about why they do the things they do
at some times they seem capable of generating false stories
we are designed to convince the world that we have coherent motivations
and in the process we convince ourselves of this
in terms of evolution
if people could impress people and preserve their reputation
this would help survive and successfully mate
point to a built-in tendency to do this kind of self promotion
one of the main functions of the conscience is to assist in this self-promotion effort
Rob Kursban
the self is more like a press secretary or a public relations department
broadcasting things out in the world that are useful for this concept of the self within its network of symbols and signs
but there's a lot of decision making going on that you have no access to
so we don't often understand the motive behind our own actions
modular view of the mind
lack of a self
the self is mostly in the public relations business
fits within the general Buddhist theme
we tend not to see things clearly
1980 The Totalitarian Ego
Fabrication and Revision of Personal History
Anthony Greenwald
the way people naturally present themselves to other people
beneficial: we tend to present ourselves as beneficial to others
effective: we present ourselves as competent
most people, when asked, will describe themselves as above average
when you do the math this can't be the truth
this view is very resistant to actually evidence
surveys show that even people who have caused car accidents tend to rate themselves as good drivers
there is a human tendency to explain away negative outcomes as due to something other than yourself
this is the reason why people who run lotteries and casinos can easily fine people who lose to them on a sustained basis
we don't focus on ourselves when explaining negative outcomes
we tend to focus on ourselves when explains positive outcomes
this also happens to team contexts
selective retention
we are more inclined to remember events that reflect favorable on us
although we do have negative memories
we remember the positive events that happen to us in greater detail than negative events
it is as if we are preparing to report to others these stories
negative memories don't seem so designed for retelling
they are to remember and maybe not share
this is not shocking
since people are aware of these biases
but they are much more aware of them in other people than in themselves
taking credit and seven other
we are even biased about how bias we are
individual differences among people
low-self esteem
people who deflate themselves
personality differences
the fact that people differ doesn't mean that they aren't suffering from illusions
the primary evolutionary function of the self is not to be a decision maker, but an organ of impression management, a kind of propaganda machine, Jerome Barkow
in fact, that we are decision makers is a piece of propaganda itself
since, if I am going to convince you that I did something for the high-minded motives, it helps for me to believe that I was there when the decision was made and that I understand and can articulate on the motives that governed the decision
being able to present reasons why we do things is an evolutionary trait that has helped people to work with other people and thus survive
if someone gets up and starts walking somewhere, and you ask them where they are going, and they give you a believable reason, you are much more likely to trust them and work with them
but if they: you know, it's weird, I just get up, I do stuff, I don't know why, I just get up and I walk places, it doesn't make sense to me, I might to anything on any given day", you are not going to trust this person or want to work with them
of all the illusions that Buddhism emphasizes, there is probably none other so profound as the illusion about the self as described along these lines
why are we all so confident that there is one central author of our actions that persists through time
it certain feels that way
theses stories that we spin are responding to the fact that other people value certain characteristics in others
they want other people to be logical, consistent, coherent, and predictable
this means that the stories you spin need to have these properties, and need to present us as good, social agents
"Of all the illusions that Buddhism emphasizes, there is probably none other so profound than this illusion about the self."
whether extrovert or introvert, it can be shown that we don't have a very objective perspective on ourselves and things that happen to us
two common themes of the self which are probably illusions
1. an author of our actions
2. persistence through time
a self that has some coherent persistence through time
these are the two themes that the Buddha emphasized as illusions
the is too much flux and impermanence in our concept of the self for it to be an entity that has reality outside of our perception of it