Empirical Value of Not-So-Big Lies

Hitler famously opined about the value of a lie so big people would believe it because they couldn’t believe anyone would “have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”.

But I’ve long suspected little lies, if repeated often enough, can have a similar effect.

Turns out there may be empirical evidence for that. And, as a bonus, repeating lies may increase the originator’s stature even when listeners “know” what they heard just ain’t so.

From Science 12/20/2019 p1468:

Repeated fake headlines feel more moral

The repetition of false claims in the news may have downstream effects on information processing. Effron and Raj found that repeatedly viewing a false headline increased approval and reduced perceptions of how unethical it would be to share it with others. Drawing on prior research, the authors hypothesized that repeated exposure increases the extent to which information feels true, even when participants know it is not. This intuitive feeling of truth is then used as an incorrect cue to signal the moral acceptability of sharing. These results suggest that news headlines that repeat false claims may inadvertently improve the moral standing of the speakers of those claims.

Psychol. Sci. 10.1177/0956797619887896 (2019).

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