To thine own self be false: Self-deceptive enhancement and sexual awareness influences on mating success

Christopher Dana Lynn, R. Nathan Pipitone, Julian Paul Keenan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Over 25 years ago, evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers proposed in the introduction to Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene that self-deception might facilitate otherdeception in intersexual competition and thereby be an unconscious adaptive mating strategy. Self-deception, or the unconscious deception of self through holding beliefs in the face of strong contrary evidence, may facilitate manipulation of others by concealing cues of cognitive load that generally accompany conscious deception. One prediction of this model is that self-deceptive self-promotion benefits mating success. We tested this hypothesis among 107 heterosexual undergraduates, measuring selfdeception using the Self-Deceptive Enhancement scale and two phenotype markerbased measures. Following parental investment theory, we approximated mating success as rate of intercourse partners and partner social status. When controlling for covariates, we found that self-deception predicted intercourse-partner rate and partner status in females only. In males, self-deception did not predict mating success for either variable. These data represent a long-overdue test of Trivers' hypothesis and provide an operational model to be refined for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-122
Number of pages14
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2014


  • Mating success
  • Positive illusions
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-deception
  • Self-enhancement


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