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See Inside November 2011

Recommended: The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott

Books and recommendations from Scientific American



Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company, © 2011 Richard Kossow

The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott: Unseen Images from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition
by David M. Wilson. Little, Brown, 2011

One hundred years after Captain Robert Scott’s trip to the South Pole, his own photos of the otherworldly polar landscape and his crew have been col­lected for the first time. Historian David M. Wilson, great-nephew of an expedition member, provides context for the haunting images.

EXCERPT
The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life
by Robert Trivers. Basic Books, 2011

“It’s not a lie if you believe it.” So remarked George to Jerry in a classic Seinfeld line that turns out to encapsulate a scientific explanation for why we lie. Evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers of Rutgers University asks why humans continually deceive themselves and concludes that we do this so we can fool others and thereby enhance our own survival and reproduction. Here he describes deception in children.

“Children show a wide array of deception by ages two and three, and the earliest clear signs appear at about six months. Fake crying and pretend laughing are among the earliest. Fake crying can be discerned because infants often stop to see whether anyone is listening before resuming. This shows that they are capable of moderating the deception according to the victim’s behavior. By eight months, infants are capable of concealing forbidden activities and distracting parental attention. By age two, a child can bluff a threat of punishment, for example, by saying, ‘I don’t care,’ about a proposed punishment when he or she clearly cares. In one study, two-thirds of children age two and a half practiced deception at least once in a two-hour period.... Lies to protect the feelings of others—so-called white lies—appear only by age five....

“As children mature, they become increasingly intelligent and increasingly deceptive. This is not an accident. The very maturing capacity that gives them greater general intelligence also gives them greater ability to suppress behavior and create novel behavior. There is also clear evidence that natural variation in intelligence, corrected for age, is positively correlated with deception. A child is left in a room and told not to look in a box. By the time the experimenter returns, most children have peeked. Now they are asked whether they peeked. Most say no, and the brighter the children are on simple cognitive tests, the more likely they are to lie. Even health of the child at birth ... is positively correlated with lying. Because we experience deception aimed toward ourselves as negative does not imply that as deceivers we experience it as negative, at least when undetected.”

ALSO NOTABLE
Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America,
by Shawn Lawrence Otto. Rodale, 2011

Who’s in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain,
by Michael S. Gazzaniga. Ecco, 2011

Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure,
by Tim Jeal. Yale University Press, 2011

A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest,
by William deBuys. Oxford University Press, 2011

Thinking, Fast and Slow,
by Daniel Kahneman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011

Secret Weapons: Technology, Science and the Race to Win WWII,
by Brian J. Ford. Osprey, 2011

Reactions: The Private Life of Atoms,
by Peter Atkins. Oxford University Press, 2011

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