Figuring out when someone’s being honest can be exhausting. To stay on your toes, watch for a technique called “paltering” that uses true statements to distort your perceptions.
Photo by Susana Fernandez.
As business site Harvard Business Review explains, paltering occurs when a person — like a politician or a salesman — will feed you true statements, but either leave out key context, or simply misinterpret the information for you. Since the individual claims are true, you might assume that the conclusion they come to is true, even if it’s wrong:
There’s a word for this way of using truthful facts to deceive: “paltering.” It is not unique to politics. In our recent work, Todd Rogers and Richard Zeckhauser of the Harvard Kennedy School, Maurice Schweitzer of Wharton, Mike Norton of Harvard Business School, and I studied the use of paltering in negotiations. Negotiators often have access to unique information, and they depend on one another’s claims about that information. Thus, negotiators can often exploit their counterparts by using deception to gain an advantage.
For example, say you’re out buying a TV and a salesman tells you that one really expensive TV comes with 4K and HDR, which makes it a good long-term purchase. None of those statements are technically inaccurate. The TV does have those features and they do make the TV relatively future-proof. However, the salesman leaves out that they have another TV on the next aisle with those exact same features for half the price. Nothing the salesman said was a lie, and you can even verify those claims, but they used that trust to sell you on a broader picture — namely that you have to spend a lot of money to get a good TV — that wasn’t really true.