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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Faking it

A study finds that people who are able to bluff their way are smarter. Smarter isn’t always better

By: Editorial |
Updated: July 1, 2021 7:50:56 am
blaggers, Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, Masterchef enthusiast, RBI policy, indian express, indian express editorialsThe problem with this brilliance, though, is that it has a short shelf life.

Fake it till you make it”, it turns out, is more than just an empty aphorism. And while honesty may be the best policy, a little bit of lying is actually a sign that you’re of above-average intelligence. A recent study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology has found that “blaggers” — those with the ability to bluff their way through conversations and concepts they don’t understand — are actually smarter than people who have the humility to say “I don’t know”.

Lying — even the harmless kind where you’re faking an understanding of RBI policy at a sinfully boring party with economists; or pretending to be an expert at plating and gnocchi on a date with a Masterchef enthusiast — is a creative process. Unlike telling the truth, it requires what the researchers in the study call “synaptic plasticity”, and people who don’t need to justify a PhD call thinking on their feet. Lying about theories and concepts requires an even greater ability to spin yarns, beginning with bits of what you know and filling in the blanks. The problem with this brilliance, though, is that it has a short shelf life.

Homer Simpson, the idiotic everyman of our time, once remarked that the sweetest moment is the “time between when I lie and I get caught out”. That moment ends, though. And there you stand, exposed in your inadequacy. For ordinary people, this means being smirked at by the bores at the party or having to hurriedly learn how to cook before a third date. But it is commentators and columnists, politicians and public figures who are the greatest blaggers — they pronounce the premature end of epidemics, confidently declare election results before voting is done and promise Olympic medals. And when it turns out they were just faking it, they are far from contrite, pretending that the facts were at fault. Yes, it does take smarts to fake it. But it would be a lot better if people just said “I don’t know”.

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