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You won't admit it. But you're lying.

“I definitely didn't cry during Titanic. But I know that some people do. Especially during the end scene, right? So moving…”

Is that you? Grab your kleenex and read this article.

This article is inspired by The Choice Factory. A book written by Richard Shotton about cognitive biases in marketing and everyday life. Read another article from this series.


The nightmare is real. You got a new job. You’re sitting at your desk. Bunch of new colleagues approach you and invite you to have a couple of beers with them. You can’t refuse. 

Your eyes are filled with tears. Your head exploding with small talk ideas. You somehow made it till the end of a day. It’s time. 

Your new folks pick up a nice restaurant. You feel better. You all sit down. Then the waiter comes so you can order drinks. 

Your colleagues start first. There’s six of them and one of you. Five musky males order lagers. Then comes Stephanie. She reaches for the wine list.

Collective low key laughter follows. “This is what you get when you have a chick in your crew, bro!” One of the dudes commented your way. You’re appalled. And a little scared. But you know your worth and decide to speak up. “I don’t think that wine is gender specific. Everybody can enjoy a glass. Even I would. But I prefer beer.”

Triggered by your answer but satisfied with your choices, dudes nod their heads. You get to spend a lovely evening out with them. 

You get home by 11 pm. Exhausted but smiling. It was not as bad as you thought. Roger, one of the dudes, likes the same books as you do. And Henry, a beautiful fella, works at a soup kitchen every Sunday morning.

Okay. It’s getting late. What will you do?

A. You get on the internet and search for the nearest soup kitchen.

B. You search Amazon for office noise canceling headphones.

C. You open a bottle of Merlot and pour yourself a glass.

What is the correct answer? You have no clue? Let me help you then.   

We don’t lie. We compete

Christian Rudder, founder of the dating platform OkCupid analyzed 1,5 millions profiles of his active users. He came to interesting conclusions. 

Men on his platform stated that they earn more than £100. 000 whole 4

times more often than the statistics showed for their demographic.

Might be a coincidence. It would not be fair to accuse them of lying. Okay.

By the way. Their average height was also 5 cm higher than average of the population. 

Little lie is not a lie. Everybody does it, honey

According to Dan Ariely most of us are honest people. We only commit little crimes that “barely counts“.

It's not a sin to steal a pen from the office every day. But taking a whole box once a year? No, you won’t do that, right?  

Little stealing is fine, because everybody does it. We ignore the fact that even small crimes add up. 

Loewenstein, Cain and Moore ran an experiment with a jar full of money to prove this. 

These men decided to play a game. They divided the participants into two roles. The appraiser (guessing person) and the advisor (person helping the guessing person). 

The appraiser looked at the jar from a distance and had to guess how much money was in it. The closer he got to reality, the more money he gained as a reward.

The advisor could stand close to the jar and advise the appraiser. At the same time, he knew one piece of information the other guy did not. There was something between $10 and $30 in the jar.

After explaining the rules, the researchers divided the participants into three groups.

In the first group, the appraisers received the same money as the advisors. The average estimate for this group was $16.5.

In the second group the advisor's reward was increasing alongside with the appraiser's estimated guess. Regardless of its accuracy. Of course, his poor partner didn't know that. The average estimate for this group was about $20.

(Yes. He lied to his partner. But he lied just a little bit so he can defend it to himself. If people were pure opportunists, the advisors in this group would be trying to stretch their appraisers a lot further.)

What does it mean? 

  • We all cheat, but only a little.

  • Watch out for conflicts of interest. Even people who are on your side are primarily rooting for themselves. Even if they do it unconsciously.

  • If you want to hear an honest opinion from someone, ideally find a person who

doesn't care about your cause at all.

They tell you the truth only by accident

We steal a little. We cheat a little. We lie a little. Holy trinity it is. 

As for lying, there’s a specific reason why we are doing it. Usually it’s because we like to see ourselves in a slightly better light. And some things are just hard to admit to anybody right? Especially to ourselves.

Richard Shotton asked 300 people about their opinion about idealized pictures on social sites. Around 26% of them admitted that they sometimes built their online presence a little brighter compared to reality. Very honest response.

However, Shotton still found the number a little small compared to other research. 

So he asked again. This time he asked the participants about their friends. A whole 60% of them actually had a friend who posted pictures looking better than reality! (Yes. You're right. The number does not add up. Somebody's lying.)

So if you want to know the whole truth, ask indirectly. About a friend. About other people. Then will folks feel more free to share the whole truth. 

Sometimes we’re embarrassed to admit we love a nice wine. But we have no issue saying that there’s nothing embarrassing about wine drinking. Ironic, huh?

Correct answer: C: You open a bottle of Merlot and pour yourself a glass.


Richard Shotton | The Choice Factory

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