Self-deception and failure to modulate responses despite accruing evidence of error

Jordan B. Peterson, Colin G. DeYoung, Erin Driver-Linn, Jean R. Séguin, Daniel M. Higgins, Louise Arseneault, Richard E. Tremblay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Two studies assessed performance on a gambling-type card playing task (Newman, Patterson, & Kosson, 1987) by males defined as high or low in self-deception. Monetary success in this task depends upon the ability to modulate reward-seeking responses, by attending to information indicative of task-failure. In Study 1, 28 13-year-old boys categorized as high in self-deception using Eysenck's Junior Lie Scale (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975), played more cards and won significantly less money than 143 categorized as low in self-deception. Study 2 replicated these findings in a sample of 42 male Harvard undergraduates defined as high or low in self-deception using Eysenck's Lie scale (Eysenck, Eysenck, & Barrett, 1985) and the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (BIDR; Paulhus, 1991). Also, a higher proportion of high self-deceivers played until the end of the task in both samples, thereby losing all their money, despite the fact that 19 of the last 20 cards were losing. These findings support a model of self-deception as ignoring evidence of error and reinforce the argument that self-deception may be maladaptive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-223
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this article was made possible by a Knox Fund Grant from Harvard University and by support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the National Health Research and Development Program of Canada. Support for Study 1 was provided by the Conseil Québécois de la Recherche Sociale, the Fonds pour la Formation des Chercheurs et l’Aide à la Recherche funds, and the National Science and Engineering Research Council. Portions of Study 1 were presented at the 107th Convention of the American Psychological Association, Boston, August 1999 and have been published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry ( Séguin et al., 2002 ). We wish to thank the boys, their families, the Commission des Écoles Catholiques de Montréal for their longstanding commitment to the longitudinal study, and Marc Lavoie and Julie Brousseau for data collection.


  • Learning
  • Perseveration
  • Response modulation
  • Self-deception
  • Social desirability


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