May Contain Lies

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

Coming 25th April

“Powerful and punchy” — Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written” — Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece” — Katy Milkman

“Fascinating” — Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote” — Vaclav Smil

“Powerful and punchy”

Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written”

Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece”

Katy Milkman

“Fascinating”

Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote”

Vaclav Smil

Pre-order your copy here

ALL POSTS

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.