How do you know what is true?

6 min Source: TED TALKS
PME All levels


We naturally seek absolute truth, but due to individual bias, we may have to accept a degree of ambiguity in the interpretation of events.


In management, there are many situations where truth is sought, mainly when it involves human interactions. Many consider truth absolute, and this is usually derived from favouring one account over another. Sheila Orfano discusses the Rashomon Effect, in which individuals give significantly different but equally conceivable accounts of the same event.  Note the following from: What is 'Rashomon effect' in Psychology? The Hindu Oct 2018

Also known as ‘Kurosawa effect’, this refers to a phenomenon wherein the same event is interpreted in vastly different ways by different people. The Rashomon effect is named after the popular 1950 Akira Kurosawa movie Rashomon in which a murder is described in four different ways by four different witnesses of the same crime. It is often used to emphasise the point that people’s perceptions about an event can differ considerably based on their individual personal experiences. Thus it is entirely possible that an event may be described in different ways by different people without any of the witnesses consciously lying.

  • The Rashomon effect usually occurs under two specific conditions:
  • First, there’s no evidence to verify what happened. 
  • There’s pressure to achieve closure, often provided by an authority figure trying to identify the definitive truth. 
  • Underpinning the Rashomon effect is research that our interpretation of visual information is influenced by our previous experiences and internal biases when we form a memory. 

The Rashomon Effect in the workplace raises many questions about what is true and whether it is possible to be genuinely objective when people interpret the same events differently. In the end, we may have to accept a degree of ambiguity when trying to identify what is true and what is false.

Worth noting the following references:

Image Used: March for Truth (34265474663).jpg - Wikimedia Commons