50 Common Misconceptions Debunked

Written by Carly Hallman
Misconceptions Debunked Infographic

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Misconceptions have a way of infiltrating our brains, spreading rapidly through word of mouth and social media. The Internet is a double-edged sword; it can help us discover the truth just as quickly as it can spread lies like wildfire. There are opinions everywhere, and reality is often skewed to suit agendas and biases. With shouts of fake news all over the media, it can be intimidating to sort fact from fiction. While it is impossible to dispel all of the myths, this infographic debunks 50 common misconceptions about history, humanity, food, technology, animals, astronomy, religion, crime, and math. Impress (or annoy) your friends and family with all of this newfound knowledge!

History

Misconception
Ancient Greek and Roman statues have always been colorless.
Truth
Greco-Roman sculptures were painted and decorated with vibrant colors, gemstones, and rich detail.

Misconception
Napoleon was short.
Truth
He was actually 5’7″, which was slightly taller than the average Frenchman at the time.
Misconception
Christopher Columbus first discovered the Americas.
Truth
A Norse missionary named Leif Erickson is believed to have landed on Canadian shores 500 years before Columbus.
Misconception
Henry Ford invented the first automobile.
Truth
Karl Benz (co-founder of Mercedes-Benz) invented the first modern, gasoline-run automobile.
Misconception
Witches were burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials.
Truth
Nineteen “witches” were executed by hanging, and one was pressed to death by stones. However, burning at the stake was a common practice during the European witch trials. Around 50,000 people were executed between the 15th and 18th centuries.

Humanity

Misconception
When you have an IV, a needle is in your arm the whole time.
Truth
A needle is only used to insert a small IV tube (or catheter) into the arm and is then removed, leaving the tube inside.
Misconception
You must wait 30 minutes after eating to swim.
Truth
There is no increased risk of muscle cramps if you swim shortly after eating.
Misconception
The MMR vaccine causes autism.
Truth
The 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield that is often cited as proof of this has since been denounced by 10 of the 13 original authors.
Misconception
Shaving makes hair grow back thicker.
Truth
Shaving does not change the thickness, color, or growth rate of hair. The coarse tips left by shaving create an illusion of thickness.
Misconception
Having OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) means someone is extremely tidy and organized.
Truth
OCD causes uncontrollable thoughts and behaviors that the person feels they must repeat over and over. In fact, it can make it more difficult to be neat and organized.
Misconception
Schizophrenia means having multiple personalities.
Truth
Not to be confused with multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia involves disordered thoughts, psychosis, and delusion.
Misconception
You only use 10% of your brain.
Truth
Brain scans have shown that no matter what someone is doing, all brain areas are active to some degree.
Misconception
Memories lost during drunken blackouts can be recovered.
Truth
This is impossible because drinking too much alcohol causes the part of the brain that encodes short-term memories to switch off.

Food

Misconception
Fortune cookies are a Chinese tradition.
Truth
Fortune cookies were invented by Japanese-Americans. They are extremely rare in China and seen as a part of American cuisine.
Misconception
Searing meat makes it more juicy.
Truth
Searing meat does not seal in moisture. It does produce a brown crust with a rich flavor via the Maillard reaction.
Misconception
Microwaves cause cancer.
Truth
Microwave oven radiation is non-ionizing, meaning it does not pose the cancer risks associated with X-rays.
Misconception
Coffee comes from beans.
Truth
Coffee “beans” are actually seeds from Coffea berries.
Misconception
Sugar causes wild behavior in kids.
Truth
Sugar does not make children hyper. Recent studies have debunked the sugar-hyperactivity myth.
Misconception
An espresso shot has more caffeine.
Truth
A shot of espresso has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Misconception
Drinking alcohol warms the body.
Truth
The warming sensation is caused by blood vessels dilating. Drinking alcohol actually lowers body temperature.
Misconception
Peanuts are nuts.
Truth
Peanuts actually belong to the legume family along with beans and peas.

Technology

Misconception
Turning on the interior light while driving is illegal.
Truth
It is not illegal, but it does make it harder to see the road and can cause distracted driving.
Misconception
Leaving your phone charging after 100% damages the battery.
Truth
Today’s lithium-ion batteries are advanced enough to stop charging when full. The charger will still draw a small amount of current, though, so unplugging it can save a bit of money.
Misconception
Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet.
Truth
His statement was that he “took initiative in creating the Internet,” meaning that he made efforts to make the Internet more accessible and viable for economic growth.

Animals

Misconception
Bears hibernate all winter.
Truth
Bears fall into a deep sleep called torpor, which is not true hibernation. They can readily respond to external stimuli and wake up.
Misconception
Leave wasps alone and they will leave you alone.
Truth
This only applies to bumblebees. Wasps (such as yellowjackets) do sting unprovoked. Aggression can also be triggered by nest proximity, season, or a former unrelated injury.
Misconception
Lice prefer dirty, oily hair.
Truth
They have no preference — they just want human blood.
Misconception
A cat purring always means they are pleased.
Truth
Purring is a multifaceted form of communication. Purring can signal hunger, stress, or healing from an injury.
Misconception
Bulls are enraged by the color red.
Truth
Bulls are colorblind to red and green, like all cattle. It’s the movement of the cape that riles them up.
Misconception
Cats and dogs are colorblind.
Truth
They mostly see shades of blue, gray, and yellow, much like a human with red-green colorblindness.
Misconception
Mama birds will abandon their baby if you touch it.
Truth
Mama birds don’t identify their chicks by smell. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says to put “ugly,” featherless baby birds (nestlings) back in the nest ASAP and leave cute, fluffy, feathered birds (fledglings) alone.
Misconception
Elephant trunks are like straws.
Truth
They actually suck water up partway and then release it into their mouths, like a baster. Elephants also use their trunks to breathe, smell, gather food, and stroke loved ones.
Misconception
Chameleons change color to match their surroundings.
Truth
Chameleons change color to reflect their mood, communicate, and adjust to changes in temperature and light.
Misconception
Bats are blind.
Truth
While 70% of bat species use echolocation to navigate, all have eyes and are capable of sight.
Misconception
Every wolf pack has an alpha who fought to the top.
Truth
Wolf packs operate like human families; parents are in charge, there are no ranks, and younger wolves do not overthrow elders.
Misconception
You need to dominate a dog or be dominated.
Truth
Dominance theory has been debunked. In fact, asserting your “alpha-ness” and causing long-term fear in a dog can lead to physical and behavioral problems.
Misconception
Dairy milk is good for cats.
Truth
Most adult cats are lactose-intolerant and will suffer gastrointestinal discomfort.

Astronomy

Misconception
The sun is on fire.
Truth
The sun is fusing hydrogen atoms into helium, meaning its heat and light come from nuclear fusion. Fire is a chemical reaction, which would not yield enough energy to last millions of years.
Misconception
The sun is a yellow star.
Truth
The sun emits energy in all of the colors of the rainbow, mixing together to create white light. The sun emits more green light than other colors, so it could be considered a green star.
Misconception
The moon is solely responsible for Earth’s tides.
Truth
The moon, the sun, the shape of the beach and coastline, the angle of the seabed, and the winds all influence the tides.
Misconception
The world’s tallest mountain is Everest.
Truth
Everest rises the highest above sea level (29,035 feet), but Mauna Kea is the highest from base to summit, at 33,500 feet. However,13,796 feet of it is submerged in the Pacific Ocean.
Misconception
Earth is a perfect sphere.
Truth
Earth rotates at about 1,040 mph (60% of the speed of a fired bullet). This rotation slightly flattens the poles and causes a bulge around the equator.

Religion

Misconception
The Garden of Eden’s forbidden fruit was an apple.
Truth
The Bible never mentions that it is an apple.
Misconception
Buddha had a huge belly.
Truth
The “chubby Buddha” motif actually depicts a 10th century Chinese monk named Budai.
Misconception
Buddha is the god of Buddhism.
Truth
Siddhārtha Gautama possessed no godly powers and encouraged self-reliance, self-discipline, and individual striving.

Crime

Misconception
You have to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person report.
Truth
Law enforcement agencies stress the importance of quick action, especially if there is evidence of violence or an unusual absence.
Misconception
Ted Bundy lured women with his good looks and charm.
Truth
It was a numbers game for him. He asked many women for help, but most refused and claimed he gave off creepy vibes.

Math

Misconception
Coin flips are always random.
Truth
A coin toss isn’t 50/50; it’s closer to 51/49, favoring the side that was facing up when the coin was thrown into the air.
Misconception
Penny spins are always random.
Truth
The penny will land tails up 80% of the time. Lincoln’s head makes the heads side heavier, making the coin more likely to fall with that side down.
Misconception
Greek philosopher Pythagoras discovered the Pythagorean Theorem.
Truth
The Babylonians were using the theorem more than a millennium before he was born. It was more likely that he was a sage who taught the doctrine of metempsychosis (reincarnation).

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