I want to know if there is an established psychology term for this pattern of behavior:

  1. A person does something, an action
  2. That something becomes known to one or more people, and the action is seen as negative
  3. (Optional) The person verbally acknowledges doing the negative action
  4. The person then denies ever doing the negative action (a falsehood)

For example:

  1. Donald Trump makes a remark that indicates he grabs women by their genitalia nonconsensually
  2. A recording of Trump making this remark is published
  3. Trump acknowledges that it was him making this statement
  4. Trump eventually denies that he ever said this, and that it was made up "fake news"

I'm looking for a succinct term that describes this pattern. Psychology has other terms to describe complex behavior such as "projection" and "codependency". So is there a known term for the above pattern?

My opinion is that these terms apply to elements of this pattern: gaslighting, lying, manipulation, and reframing. But these terms do not describe the behavior pattern overall. Something that strikes me about this pattern is how it erodes one's sense of reality, almost in an Orwellian sense.

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    $\begingroup$ This is actually called denial: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Jan 18 '18 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Arnon, do you see Denial as being more narrow than Self-Deception? $\endgroup$ – jaycer Jan 18 '18 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ Denial is an example of self-deception, but is not strictly a sub-type, since denial does not require the person believing what they say (caveat: there is an (outdated) term "denial" used in psychoanalysis to mean unconscious denial, that is strictly a sub-type of self-deception, but the modern use is different). Trump regularly speaks out of both sides of his mouth depending on his audience, so I wouldn't jump to conclusions about what he himself believes. $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Jan 19 '18 at 0:32

Short answer
I think you are referring to 'self-deception', or 'interpersonal deception'.

Self-deception is

a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception.

Self-deception is not simply an erroneous thought, as the acquisition and maintenance of the false belief is intentional not accidental. Self-deceivers apparently must (1) hold contradictory beliefs, and (2) intentionally get themselves to hold a belief they know or believe truly to be false. Therefore, it is related to interpersonal deception, where people intentionally let others to believe something, while knowing or believing truly that that is not true (source: Stanford University).

Interpersonal deception theory (IDT) attempts to explain how individuals handle actual (or perceived) deception at the conscious or subconscious level while engaged in face-to-face communication.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks - I assume it could be both at the same time too? $\endgroup$ – jaycer Jan 18 '18 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ @jaycer - yep, I guess so $\endgroup$ – AliceD Jan 18 '18 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ In my example, the person isn’t self-deceiving at first. I think this is what confuses me about it. Why would a person have a delay where they could experience other’s reality, and later on, even months later, go into self-deception? $\endgroup$ – jaycer Jan 18 '18 at 23:52

The answer depends on the individuals mental status. If one is simply speaking without much thought or regard for being factual, well that can be labeled many different things. The psychological term for when one gets "triped" up in inaccurate statements and then tries to cover up by making further and most often equally false statements is; confabulation. Hope this helps. Walt


Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    $\begingroup$ This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Jan 20 '18 at 19:22

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