The “Truth Bias” & The Power of “The Big Lie”—A Quick Lesson for You from Adolph Hitler, Dr. Goebbels, and a Healthy Girl from Texas…

adolf-hitlerEvery time you hear another person speak, you decide whether to believe themor not.

For virtually everyone, this “decision” is made passively, by default:  They believe.

This automatic tendency toward belief isn’t due to naivet’e, ignorance, or having not read my book, but just a phenomenon called ”The Truth Bias“, which simply means that we all naturally tend to believe what others tell us. 

This default faith in what others say remains perfectly intact until we have reason for doubt.  Sometimes that doubt comes almost instantly… sometimes never.  People do tell the truth sometimes, you know.  

When I read this week about the 18 year old Texas girl who lied about having cancer, raised $17,000 from the community, and even spoke at schools about her bout with the disease, it reminded me of The Truth Bias, and then something even more relevant to the case:  The power of “The Big Lie“.

So how could a high school senior pull off such an enormous lie for months on end?  Two forces of human nature helped her along:

1-She of course had The Truth Bias working in her favorpeople tend to believe until there’s reason to doubt,


2-There was the enormity of the lieit leaves us awestruck, but the enormity of the lie was precisely what made it work.

goebelsHitler’s minister of propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbel’s once declared that, ”If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  The brazenness of this is profound on a couple levels.  Not only did he believe in big lies, he openly professed his belief, apparently unworried that it would undermine his technique.  And it didn’t!

But it was Hitler himself who coined the term, The Big Lie, in his 1925 Mein Kampf:  “A lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence” to distort the truth so infamously.”

Where truth, deception, and lies are concerned, instinct always betrays us, and here it is again—what would the average person answer if you asked them which has the greatest chance of success:  A small lie… or a big one?

Correct answer:  Always the big one.  

Of course, few people have the impudence to try The Big Lie

But if they do… you may just believe it.


Refer this blog post to a friend or colleague…

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  1. Jef
    September 20th, 2011 | 12:12 am

    Was ‘the girl from TX’ a student of Hitler’s ‘Big Lie’? Surely not.

    But some out there just have good (bad) instincts…

    Thanks for reading, your comments / experiences are welcome…

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