Using the Truth to Lie

In this spotlight I wish to remind you about the prevalence of the various methods in use today to win your heart and mind, or in plain language, to manipulate your thinking and beliefs. Hector Macdonald in his book, Truth, informs us of the many ways that “truth” can be used to lie. I found his Colgate story most informative. Colgate sent questionnaires to dentists asking them to identify the toothpastes they recommended. When the questionnaires were returned, Colgate announced that 80% of dentists recommended Colgate. This in turn persuaded other dentists to begin to recommend Colgate as well. Why? Because research once again shows that people follow the herd and nowhere is this better illustrated than with the line length study.

The Group

In the line length study, four or five confederates, those who are in on the experiment, choose a shorter line as the longest. The experimental subject will begin by properly choosing the true longest line but soon begins to follow along and deny their own senses in doing so. As the confederates choose shorter lines, so does the experimental subject.

Now here’s the thing with the Colgate advertising campaign. There were many types of toothpaste recommended by the dentists. In other words, the dentists did not only recommend Colgate, they may well have also listed several other brands in their survey, but Colgate did not include that information. 80% may well have also recommended Crest, for example, but Colgate did not report the other brands recommended. As such, they told the truth but the truth did not represent all of the facts.

Cherry Picking

Cherry picking facts is what we all do when we defend a position and when our herd, our tribe, collectively holds to the same interpretation, it is unusually difficult to let go of the belief, the truth, that we hold dear to our being.

My book, Gotcha! The Subordination of Free Will, shares many of the ways truth is used to manipulate, and the hundreds of ways it is used every day to persuade us to lose ourselves in favor of the thoughts a few want us to think, act, or believe, and/or in other ways be convinced that we are doing the right thing following along with the crowd.

It is not always easy to get to the truth today. The spin masters are plentiful and the distortions everywhere. That said, easy or not, we are all called upon as responsible human beings to do our best to use our intelligence, as opposed to allow others to lead it. Thinking is destiny and thoughts are things. The thoughts we hold govern our behavior. If your thoughts are of hatred, you will behave in ignoble ways sooner or later. If your thoughts are of consumption, you will consume. If your thoughts are sexual, you will follow those thoughts. If your thoughts are divisive, you will be divisive. I could go on, but you get the point.


My suggestion, let’s all choose to sort the false from the fact and deal with those facts in intelligent ways. Let’s commit to deal with all of the facts, and not just cherry pick the ones we favor. Let’s choose to listen and communicate with each other without anger or avarice. Let us all armor plate ourselves against the many forms of manipulation that exist, and make wise decisions.

My thoughts anyway, what are yours?

Eldon Taylor

Eldon Taylor
Provocative Enlightenment
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusions