Most followers may prefer to be lied to, but is the leader self-deluded? Gigi Foster and @FrijtersPaul are behavioral economists with research on “Optimal Disinformation”.
We find that 77 percent of respondents prefer to be fed an optimistic version of the future when the future outcome is actually going to be bad (in other words, they prefer to be lied to); and 63 percent of respondents prefer to be fed optimistic signals when the outcome is actually going to be good. This latter statistic shows that on average in our sample, the pleasure from being pleasantly surprised that may result from holding lower expectations than are warranted by reality is dwarfed by the pleasure of consuming positive expectations today. [p. 23]
4.3.1 Self-delusion, self-esteem and levels of consciousness
… it is not necessary, or optimal, for an individual to know at any time what `the truth’ actually is. An individual is a continuous self-deluder, continuously distorting incoming signals without necessarily ever being aware at some `higher level’ that the self-delusion is happening. Our approach also more naturally accommodates the notion that rational self-reflection must be learned, and is unusual from an evolutionary perspective.
Indeed, from an evolutionary perspective, learning the true psychology of humans is both unfortunate from a utility perspective and costly in an evolutionary sense, to the extent that the knowledge itself makes it harder to subsequently self-delude. [p. 24]
Optimism, Information, and Optimal Disinformation | Gigi Foster and Paul Frijters | July 26, 2012 | U. of New South Wales at http://www.asb.unsw.edu.au/schools/economics/Documents/Foster,%20G.%20and%20Frijters,%20P.%20-%20Optimism%20and%20Information.pdf (i.e. asb.unsw.edu.au/schools/economics/Documents/Foster, G. and Frijters, P. – Optimism and Information.pdf )
Paul Frijters and Gigi Foster have recently published An Economic Theory of Greed, Love, Groups, and Networks (2013), briefed at http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2013/08/economists-feel-the-love/.