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Parental wisdom or common myths? 10 myths you probably believed

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LA Post: Parental wisdom or common myths? 10 myths you probably believed
April 15, 2024
Sowjanya P - LA Post

When we are born, our parents are our first teachers. They show us the way and teach us valuable lessons about life. But it's possible that some of what we've been taught may not be completely true. This is because a parent's advice is often based on long-standing customs and their own life experiences. However, it can also spread false beliefs and myths.

We all know those common myths that get passed around over and over until everyone just accepts them as the truth. But a big new look at these sayings found that a bunch of them - over 10, in fact - are totally wrong when you check the actual science behind them.

A nationwide survey interviewed 2,000 regular people about beliefs and sayings that are often shared, supposedly as facts. It discovered that almost half the people weren't even sure where these "popular facts" originally came from. Despite not knowing the real source, nearly 50% still repeated these untrue claims to others, helping spread the misinformation even further.  

The survey was done by an eyecare company called Scrivens, looking into common myths people believe about contact lenses. In doing so, they uncovered a long list of over 10 super common myths across all kinds of topics—myths that legitimate research studies have clearly disproven and debunked as false.

  • One of the biggest myths they found is the saying that most of our body heat escapes out of the head. However, science experts say only around 10% of heat actually gets lost through the head area since it has a relatively small surface compared to the rest of the body. Another massively widespread myth is that goldfish have memories of only 3 seconds - when real studies show their memories can last as long as three whole months.
  • The myth that humans only use 10% of their brain power is another enormously popular one that isn't true at all. Research proves that even basic motions like clenching your fist use way more than just 10% of the brain's capabilities and neurons firing. 
  • There are a bunch of common myths around color and vision, too. Despite what tons of people think, bulls actually can't see the color red at all, so red objects don't anger or provoke them whatsoever.
  • And that classic idea that a penny dropped from a huge height like the Empire State Building could kill someone below? Total nonsense—pennies just don't have enough weight and force to do that.
  • Some myths just seem plausible at first glance until you really examine them. Take the famous belief that swallowed chewing gum takes seven years for the body to digest. That can't be true because the human body can't actually digest and break down chewing gum at all, so it just gets excreted.
  • Then there are the classic old wives' tales that get disproven as myths, too. You may have heard adding salt to a pot of water makes it boil faster. Not at all. Salt actually raises the boiling point of water, not lowers it. Moreover, contrary to what your parents may have warned, cracking your knuckles doesn't lead to arthritis or cause any harm, doctors confirm.  
  • A bunch of common misconceptions exist about nature and biology as well. For example, while many think chameleons constantly change color to camouflage themselves, experts say those color shifts mainly function to communicate threats to other chameleons, not to blend in.
  • And despite the persistent myth, bats are definitely not blind—their eyes have very strong vision that allows them to see clearly even in near-dark conditions. The belief that baby birds get abandoned if touched by humans is just an old myth with zero factual basis.
  • All kinds of health myths persist, too, even after being disproven. Studies have found zero link between sugar intake and hyperactive behavior in kids.
  • And while we were always warned not to swim right after eating due to cramps, major medical groups confirm there's simply no scientific evidence that's accurate. The idea that going out in cold weather causes colds is yet another health myth - while cold air may affect the immune system, it's viruses, not temperature, that directly make people sick.   

On a positive note, the survey did find most people are pretty skeptical of unverified "facts" found online these days, with only 25% believing things they encounter on the internet without questioning them. But somehow, outrageous-sounding myths that play on our existing biases and assumptions, like the crazy stat that people swallow eight spiders per year in their sleep, continue to spread widely unchecked.

From nonsensical old wives' tales to baseless schoolyard rumors to random made-up statistics without any evidence, these persistent myths show how easily the human brain can be tricked into believing something just because it gets repeated enough times until it seems plausible and real. While some myths seem harmless, others could potentially enable truly dangerous behaviors or hinder understanding of crucial topics like health and science.

By closely examining over 20 of the most common myths through documented research, this survey shines a light on the harsh reality - just because something has been claimed as fact for ages doesn't inherently make it factual or true in the real world. Major truths and discoveries often contradict centuries of established belief and conventional wisdom.  

So why do these blatantly false myths keep bouncing around and getting repeated until everyone thinks they're real? A Scrivens spokesperson put it this way: "If enough people tell us the same thing over and over, we're inclined just to believe it, especially if we first heard it as kids and it stuck in our minds that way."

At the end of the day, questioning things that sound a bit fishy and looking for solid proof before accepting them as gospel is the wisest approach. Just because everyone you know believes something doesn't necessarily mean it's accurate. A healthy bit of skepticism until hard evidence emerges, can save you from spreading misinformation and help you understand the difference between facts vs. myths.

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