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Mathematics makes us dishonest!

No, we haven’t given in to a sensationalist title. And we’re not taking revenge on a school system where math was and remains the implacable judge that separates the average student from the brilliant one. A study published in 2014 and backed by the Harvard Business Review showed that the practice of mathematics had a negative influence on our behavior. As part of an experiment students were asked to make some moral or ethical decisions. Before making these decisions, some students spent 15 minutes solving math exercises while the other students had to answer questions taken randomly from standard tests.  At the end of the experiment, the students who had worked on the math exercises proved four times more likely to make selfish and even immoral decisions.

What does this have to do with presenting your ideas? We have already seen that it is possible to use both quantity and frequency in order to optimize the assimilation of remarks by the audience.  But the practice of math and the logical reasoning that accompanies it has a much more serious impact on the perception we have of the world and the way we decide to integrate with it. Depending on what you want to obtain from your audience, a purely numerical demonstration of your reasoning could turn out to be counterproductive.

The same experiment revealed that by displaying a message or an image reminding the students of their social responsibility could diminish the impact of the math exercises. This gives us the opportunity to remind you that it is essential that a presentation speak both to the heart and to reason.

Unfortunately we are not as rational as we would like to be. And we should never forget that we argue more often to justify decisions that we have already made. Experiments like the one we use as a pretext today have repeatedly shown that we are capable of making decisions in all conscience that are against our best interest. And, in most cases, we reveal ourselves to be naturally more altruistic than we are led to believe… provided that we practice mental math calculations with moderation.

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