Repetition makes a lie believable.
The 3rd Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year… according to many British newspapers.
This ‘scientific claim’ is the invention of a PR company and a part-time lecturer. It was created back in 2004 to get people to book their annual summer holidays earlier and is, of course, rubbish.
It has been thoroughly discredited over the past 19 years (lots of links in my 2011 article here https://nlp-now.co.uk/the-blue-monday-myth-or-lie/).
Don’t let the truth spoil an eye-catching headline
Rubbish or not, the myth is dusted off and rolled out each year by the UK media – so we can still expect lots of articles each January from our British newspapers.
Do a Google search for “Blue Monday January”. Happily, and unlike even just a few years ago, fewer articles now claim Blue Monday has been ‘scientifically proven’. Most will lead with “It’s the Most Depressing Day” but throw in a comment along the lines “well, actually, it’s not really the most depressing day BUT…!”
The ‘illusory truth effect’ effect
Psychologists have given the ‘repeated lie is believed’ phenomenon a proper official title. It’s called ‘the illusory truth effect’ and shows that people believe a fact if it is repeated often enough.
Back in the 1930s Joseph Goebbels, as Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany to 1945, used the Repeated Lie Effect to demonise the Jews.
Ex-President Trump’s use of the Repeated Lie Effect is now legendary. And more than a few of our current English politicians seem to have picked up a few tips from Goebbels and Trump.
But we’re all vulnerable to the Repeated Lie Effect. Most of us gullibly repeat what we see and hear rather than question it – examples include: The honey bee is too heavy to fly. We only use 10% of our brain. Vitamin C cures the common cold. (There are 10 myths here: https://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/10-false-facts1.htm)
Antidotes to the Repeated Lie Effect?
Develop a healthy and robust scepticism – ask questions before repeating ‘facts’.
Challenge all new facts using Kipling’s strategy:
I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.