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How true is the truth?

The world is full of “true lies” such as Santa Claus, Yeti and the Easter Bunny. And then there are false truths, things we regard as true but aren’t. Like eating lots of carrots helps us see better in the dark and laughing lots makes you prettier.


Picture: Subbotina Anna / fotolia

But how comes that false truths come to be so widely believed? Fast Company has researched the answer: Information that's easy to process is viewed positively in almost every way. And the other way around: Recipes are written in hard-to-read fonts are seen as harder to prepare. Cognitive scientists refer to this ease as "processing fluency", and that is why our brains are full of strange ideas we like to believe.

The greater something’s "fluency", the more we tend to like it, the less risky we judge it, the more popular and prevalent we believe it is, and the easier we think it is to do. Bank notes in an unfamiliar currency are seen as less valuable and at IPOs stock prices of companies with easy-to-pronounce names do better than others.

It's not only about the information itself, it's about how data is presented. We like stuff that is easy to process. If some random piece of information is easy to snap up and is only repeated often enough we regard it as fact.

It’s this fluency-as-a-surrogate-for-truth shortcut that makes innovation tricky: We trust in assumptions about the way the world operates that seem so obviously true that we fail to test them. And in failing to check these basic assumptions, we slam the door shut on finding new and better ways to do things,” writes Fast Company.

So how can you bypass your brain’s natural processing-fluency shortcut to make sure you aren't clinging to false assumptions that hinder your business acumen? But not forgetting that in the dangerous environment in which our brains evolved – with sabre-toothed tigers and tribal wars – familiarity was key: the people in our group, the path to the river, the stars at night. But our environment has changed enormously since then. So start observing and questioning instead of just believing.

Read more at Fast Company

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