Nobody likes being lied to on principle, but as it turns out, your brain is pretty OK with it, so long as those lies get repeated a bunch of times. Research from Vanderbilt University indicates that you're more likely to accept statements as being true if those statements are frequently repeated, even if you're aware of facts that contradict those statements.

Why would our brains put a "truth" label on repeated lies?

Researchers think that figuring out whether something is true or false requires your brain to take a "second, resource-demanding step," the Vanderbilt report says. The brain doesn't like to use energy unnecessarily, so it essentially takes the path of least resistance and uses how often the fact has been repeated as an indicator of the statement's reliability.

Putting the study to work

The brain's tendency to lean on repetition as a truth-o-meter doesn't necessarily mean you're doomed to believe every repeated lie you hear. The Vanderbilt University study found that people still believe true statements more than widely repeated false ones. But the findings have some practical applications. For example:

  • If you want to up the odds your workers or team members believe something you're saying, don't just hit them with it a time or two. Say it loud and proud a bunch of times. That might require some preplanning on your part, so leave yourself time to repeat the message.
  • If you start to hear workers reiterating similar untrue sentiments over and over, step in and make some clarifications so more of your work force doesn't snowball toward believing the bad information.
  • During market or other research, don't assume that something is true just because you're finding it within many sources. Look at the history and reputation of those sources and carefully review methodology to decide whether the statements are just buzz or have serious credibility.

In or out of the office, remember: The truth will always be the truth. Lying about reality doesn't change reality itself. No matter the perception, you don't need to carry an ounce of guilt if you're honestly right.