Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Why You Mistake Lies For Truth

Humans have five senses. Napoleon was short. Vikings wore horned helmets. Einstein flunked math. Chameleons match the colour of their surroundings. Humans only use 10% of their brains. And sharks can smell a drop of blood from a mile away.

What do all these facts have in common?

They’re all lies.

Depending on how you count, we have between 14 and 20 senses. Napoleon was tall for his day. Vikings never wore horned helmets. Einstein was exceptional at math (go figure). Chameleons change colours to intimidate foes or dazzle females. We don’t have any untapped brain power. And sharks can’t even smell a drop of blood in an olympic sized pool

Why do these facts feel so true?

The mere exposure effect. If you repeat something enough times, it starts to feel good and true.

Some of the above ‘facts’ have been repeated for decades. And if every listening increases trust, it’s no surprise we see them as accurate: every repetition made us like the ‘fact’ more.

It’s why we enjoy drinking brown coloured sugar water, even though it looks like something you’d find in a marsh. And it’s why we struggle with articles that express an idea opposed to our own.

We like what’s familiar and dislike what’s foreign.

Which is why it’s so hard to bust myths on television and paper, if a myth has been repeated enough, the audience can’t separate familiarity from veracity. And it also explains why fake news does so well.

If you don’t need facts to win over an audience, you can churn out malarkey and make a killing. That’s what fake news pioneer, Benjamin Day, did in the 1830s when he wrote newspaper articles about batmen living on the moon.

How do you know what to trust in an era where clickbait and misinformation reign supreme?

By being a skeptic. It may not feel as good as letting a journalist carry you to the answer, but it sure beats believing the earth is flat.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach