Perpetrators With a Clear Conscience
Lying Self-Deception and Belief Change
This chapter attempts to add to the literature on the psychological mechanisms underlying perpetrator behavior by looking at the possibility that a specific form of self-deception may play an important role. Specifically, adopting lies and communicating them to others may enable perpetrators to carry out their evil tasks on a daily basis and may even enable them to live out the remainder of their lives with a clear conscience. The chapter examines what Hannah Arendt (1965) calls “lying self-deception”: the effects of telling lies repeatedly on subsequent belief change. The present analysis focuses heavily on how such processes may have operated on Adolf Eichmann, one of the main perpetrators of the Holocaust. In addition, the chapter offers speculations on how such an analysis may extend to other perpetrators, bystanders, and, to some extent, victims of genocide.
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