May Contain Lies

How stories, statistics and studies exploit our biases — and what we can do about it

“Powerful and punchy” — Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written” — Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece” — Katy Milkman

“Fascinating” — Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote” — Vaclav Smil

Amazon #1 category bestseller (UK and US)

Amazon Top 100 across all categories (UK)

Financial Times Business Books of the Month (April 2024)

Adam Grant’s 8 New Idea Books to Start Spring

Next Big Idea Club Must-Read Book for May 2024

“Powerful and punchy”

Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written”

Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece”

Katy Milkman

“Fascinating”

Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote”

Vaclav Smil

Adam Grant’s 8 New Idea Books to Start Spring

Next Big Idea Club Must-Read Book for May 2024

Pre-order your copy here

    The word ‘lie’ typically means an outright falsehood. But ‘lie’ is simply the opposite of ‘truth’. Someone can lie by hiding contradictory information, not gathering it in the first place, or drawing invalid conclusions from valid data. Even if books, studies, or talks are filled with facts, they should all carry the same health warning: They may contain lies.

    ALL POSTS

    Does social purpose drive profit?

    Does social purpose drive profit?

    Someone thoughtfully sent me a Harvard Business Review article, ‘How Your Company's Social Purpose Can Also Drive Profit’, thinking I’d like it given my book Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit, gives a similar message. My confirmation bias led me to want to lap up the evidence uncritically, but unfortunately it’s extremely weak, even for HBR's standards. (I have written for HBR many times and it has many ...
    Did the New York Times make Wordle harder?

    Did the New York Times make Wordle harder?

    Many forms of misinformation have a clear source — authors or journalists misquoting a study, or a famous person giving an extreme quote. That allows us to check the underlying source, as in this example.
    Experimenting on WEIRD people

    Experimenting on WEIRD people

    One of my research fields in behavioural economics, which suggests that people don’t always act in perfectly rational ways. A famous experiment in this field is known as the Ultimatum Game. There are two players, a ‘proposer’ whom we’ll call Amelia, and a ‘responder’, Bilal.
    Can we really make $4 trillion fall from the sky? (Part 2)

    Can we really make $4 trillion fall from the sky? (Part 2)

    In an earlier post, I covered a Moore Global study claiming that companies with strong ESG performance enjoyed higher profits. If all companies took ESG as seriously as the ESG leaders, their profits would rise by $4 trillion in aggregate.
    Can we really make $4 trillion fall from the sky? (Part 1)

    Can we really make $4 trillion fall from the sky? (Part 1)

    In late 2022, a CEO posted this on LinkedIn: ‘Companies that place importance on #ESG factors saw profits rise 9.1% and revenue grow 9.7% over the past 3 years’. Having written a book on the value of ESG, I was intrigued.
    Ignoring what’s right in front of you

    Ignoring what’s right in front of you

    The first step in overcoming confirmation bias is to check the facts, even if you’re tempted to take them at face value. But doing so is not always straightforward. My TED talk opened with how Belle Gibson claimed to have beaten cancer through diet. Since Belle’s medical records are private, the person on the street can’t easily check this claim.
    The Marshmallow Study revisited

    The Marshmallow Study revisited

    One of the most famous psychology experiments conducted on children is the Marshmallow Study. In a 1972 paper, Walter Mischel and co-authors gave three-to-five-year-olds at the Stanford Bing Nursery School a marshmallow. They could eat it now, but if they waited 15 minutes, they’d get a second marshmallow.
    Do whole grains prevent heart disease?

    Do whole grains prevent heart disease?

    Study: Whole Grain Consumption Lowers Death Risk. That’s the title of an article in HCP Live, a clinical news and information portal for doctors. It’s consistent with what everyone tells you about the benefits of whole grains. But while some superfoods are peddled out of thin air, this one seems to be backed up by evidence.
    Does Brexit cost the UK £100 billion per year?

    Does Brexit cost the UK £100 billion per year?

    Britain’s leave-voting areas are falling even further behind three years after Brexit. Our Levelling Up Scorecard shows how they are far more likely to face a widening wealth and opportunity gap relative to richer regions. That’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg Close email I received in January 2023.
    If in doubt, cut it out

    If in doubt, cut it out

    We all know the trick of selectively quoting from a passage, so that you can twist it to support whatever you want. As theologian Don Carson pointed out, “A text without a context is a pretext”. Websites such as Quote Investigator check whether a quote was actually said, and give you the context behind it.
    How confirmation bias hurts your wallet

    How confirmation bias hurts your wallet

    Some forms of confirmation bias occur when there’s little quantifiable at stake. If Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats are glued to MSNBC, their knowledge of the world will be less rich, but they don’t suffer any tangible loss. You’d hope that, if there’s money on the table, people might bite the bullet and overcome their biases.