Believing myths about how the world works is part of being a kid. Everyone understands that swimmers shouldn't jump back into the water after eating a poolside snack, for example, because their parents told them so. And everyone knows that mice go wild for cheese, right? Wrong. These and other oft-repeated misconceptions are treated as facts when, in reality, there is little truth to them.
Like unfounded fears over MSG or coffee, these tales have shaped people's beliefs, tastes, and behaviors for a generation. Some have been peddled by pop culture; others - like historical myths that people wrongly believe - have been fueled by assumptions and lack of knowledge.
These facts set the record straight and demythologize childhood misinformation.
- Photo: M. Thiebaut de Schotten F. Dell'Acqua P. Ratiu A. Leslie H. Howells E. Cabanis M. T. Iba-Zizen O. Plaisant A. Simmons N. F. Dronkers S. Corkin M. Catani / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 4.012,387 VOTES
We Use All Of Our Brains - Not Just 10%
One of the most repeated - and incorrect - myths is that humans only use about 10% of their brains. The idea that humans could unlock more brain power has led to countless pop cultural musings on the subject, such as the 2014 film Lucy.
But humans don't just use 10% of our brains; we use it all. Research backs this up. Scientists have mapped the human brain and measured its activity, and "have yet to find an area of the brain that doesn't do anything," according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
- 22,302 VOTES
Don't 'Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture'
Everyone knows the drill: When a Polaroid camera spits out an instant photo, you should shake it to dry it off. It's such a common sight that everyone knew exactly what Outkast meant when they told people to "shake it like a Polaroid picture" in their hit song "Hey Ya!"
Scientifically speaking, shaking a Polaroid is actually the opposite of what you should do. After Outkast's song was released in 2003, Polaroid urged customers not to "shake it." As CNN reported, a spokesperson for Polaroid acknowledged:
Almost everybody does it, thinking that shaking accelerates the development process, but if you shake it too vigorously you could distort the image.
- 31,932 VOTES
Mice Don't Have A Special Taste For Cheese
Pop culture tells us that mice are the original cheeseheads. Leave out a crumb of cheese, and they just can't help themselves - they'll gobble it up or carry it back to their mouse-hole to share with friends.
It's a charming myth, but it's still just a myth. Mice are not uniquely obsessed with cheese. In fact, according to rodent expert Robert Corrigan, cheese likely doesn't rank among mice's favorite snacks. Although they are unfussy eaters, mice would probably choose fruits or nuts over cheese, if given the choice.
- 41,761 VOTES
The Blood In Your Veins Is Red
Kids will usually notice that their veins are blue - and, after they learn about blood, will puzzle over the fact that their veins aren't red. Typically someone will then authoritatively explain that blood becomes red only when it leaves their body and mixes with oxygen.
But there's a problem: That explanation is bunk.
At no point is human blood blue. It's always red, even though veins look bluish to the human eye. As scholars Marisia Fikiet and Igor Lednev noted in The Conversation:
Human blood is red because of the protein hemoglobin, which contains a red-colored compound called heme that's crucial for carrying oxygen through your bloodstream [...] Chemicals appear particular colors to our eyes based on the wavelengths they reflect. Hemoglobin bound to oxygen absorbs blue-green light, which means that it reflects red-orange light into our eyes, appearing red. That's why blood turns bright cherry red when oxygen binds to its iron. Without oxygen connected, blood is a darker red color [...]
[H]uman blood is never blue. The bluish color of veins is only an optical illusion. Blue light does not penetrate as far into tissue as red light. If the blood vessel is sufficiently deep, your eyes see more blue than red reflected light due to the blood's partial absorption of red wavelengths.
- 51,612 VOTES
Goldfish Don't Have Ridiculously Bad Memories
According to pop culture, goldish are definitely not elephants - and not only because of their small size. Unlike elephants - which supposedly never forget anything - goldfish are reputed to have terrible memories and quickly forget simple things.
Take the TV show Ted Lasso, for instance. The titular Premier League coach advises a player on his team to shake off a costly mistake and not let it haunt him. "Be a goldfish," Lasso says.
Although that advice resonated with fans of the show, it's based on a faulty premise. Goldfish actually don't have bad memories at all. Research has demonstrated that goldfish can remember things months after they happen.
- 61,427 VOTES
Swimming Right After Eating Isn't Necessarily A Health Risk
For many kids, getting back in the swimming pool after eating was verboten. "Wait an hour to let your lunch digest," their parents would say. "If you don't, you might cramp up and drown."
What is the basis of this claim? The fear is that blood flows to the stomach to digest a big meal. When that happens, or so the claim goes, the body doesn't distribute proper energy to its limbs, causing someone to cramp up and drown in the water.
Medical experts remain skeptical of that theory. In fact, many claim the recommendation to abstain from swimming after eating doesn't hold water at all. According to Dr. Michael Boniface of the Mayo Clinic, "We know now that really there is no scientific basis for that recommendation."
Drowning is a huge risk for kids, but food doesn't cause the drowning; being in deep water without the appropriate swimming skills does.
Evidence does suggest, however, that elite swimmers are more likely to experience cramps and stitches than casual swimmers, probably because their bodies are performing at such a high level. But because most of us aren't elite swimmers, "it's perfectly safe for kids to chow down and dive in," claims journalist Michael Franco for HowStuffWorks.