Exaggeration seems to be the default in today’s society. Often, people compare yesterday’s weather with climate change. Recently, Elon Musk compared the Canadian PM to Adolf Hitler, a tweet that he erased quickly. In 2016, Hillary Clinton labelled Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables“.
I’ve borrowed my title from a 2018 study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: “Tall tales make fast friends: Exaggerating when retelling previous experiences fosters relational closeness”. I considered an alternative title: “Exaggeration of Issues in Society“. The first title is more likely to make you think.
In my view, thinking is a habit in serious decline. We prefer to believe others than think for ourselves.
By believing others, we save time and energy, which are scarce resources in our lives. However, that habit requires (blind) trust in others. In my view, blind trust is seldom warranted and trust should be earned.
When I hear, read or watch something then I wonder what might be the (real) message that Sender wants Receiver to get. Quite often, there is “noise” that is hampering the message. Some people use reverse psychology and say the opposite of what they mean. Usually, the role of Sender foretells the message.
During my Google search on this topic, I noticed a remarkable 2021 study: “Trust in Science, Perceived Media Exaggeration About COVID-19, and Social Distancing Behavior”. In other words, exaggeration results in trust issues (eg, distrust, mistrust). However, the source of exaggeration (ie, Sender) is important too.
Since at least 2000, several stunning scientific studies (ie, “tall tales”) have been retracted due to “errors” or just “bias“. See Top 10 most highly cited retractions. A 2018 article in Science starts as follows:
“Nearly a decade ago, headlines highlighted a disturbing trend in science: The number of articles retracted by journals had increased 10-fold during the previous 10 years. Fraud accounted for some 60% of those retractions; one offender, anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt, had racked up almost 90 retractions after investigators concluded he had fabricated data and committed other ethical violations.” (Science)
If scientific studies can no longer be trusted then who or what can we (still) trust? The people we believe in?
To me, it’s astonishing how many Republicans still have trust in Donald Trump, a pathological liar (eg, 2017 video by John Oliver, Vanity Fair-2019, LA Times-2020, MSNBC-2021, PolitiFact-scorecard). Apparently, fast tales do make fast – and steady – friends. That kind of love reminds me of the song below.
Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.