30+ Lies You Were Told as a Kid—That You Probably Still Believe
These long acknowledged “facts” are anything but. We’d bet that you believed all of these lies—until today.
Sugar will make you hyperactive
Apparently, our parents were wrong: We totally could have had that cake for breakfast. Alright, maybe not really, but it’s not because the cake was going to make us hyper! This “well-known fact” has been proven time and time again to be one of the more famous old wives’ tales. Studies found that children’s behaviour did not change whether they had been fed sugar or not. What did change: parent’s perception of their child’s behaviour. When parents were told their children had just been given a lot of sugar, they were more likely to say their child was hyperactive, even when the sugar fix was just a placebo.
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Gum will stay in your stomach for seven years
Nope. Not true. This probably comes from the fact that bodies don’t digest gum well. But this doesn’t mean that a pile of swallowed gum is just filling up your stomach; it just means your body hasn’t digested the gum before it passes is straight through, along with the rest of the solid food you have eaten. Because of its low nutritional components, Yale Scientific confirmed that while it does take slightly longer than other food to digest, gum will be out of your body in seven days at most.
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You can’t swim for an hour after eating
Lies. The story went that the body sent blood to the stomach (and away from your limbs) while it digested food and as such, your limbs would grow tired more quickly. At best you could get cramps, and at worst, as the story goes, you could drown. Luckily for all you avid swimmers, Mayo Clinic has confirmed that there is absolutely no scientific basis for this theory. Eat whatever you want and hop right back into the water!
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You lose more body heat through your head
This rumour is why we had to wear awful hats in the winter, but it just isn’t true. The study that this common misperception was based on had a lot of additional factors that skewed the end result, and countless follow up studies have disproven this idea over and over again. The real reason you “lose more body heat through your head?” Because in cold weather, your head is the part of you that’s most likely not covered up. So do wear a hat. But also be sure to wear pants and a jacket, and all the other warm winter things.
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Your tongue has different sections for different tastes
Nope. That map we’ve all seen different variations of? Total bogus. While some individual taste buds taste certain flavours more strongly, they aren’t located only in certain areas of your mouth. The science experts at Smithsonian confirmed that this one was a lie, saying, “Indeed, results from a number of experiments indicate that all areas of the mouth containing taste buds—including several parts of the tongue, the soft palate (on the roof of your mouth) and the throat—are sensitive to all taste qualities.”
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Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis
It might gross out the people around you, but that’s about it. Experts at Harvard conducted several studies that compared arthritis rates among people who never cracked their knuckles and those who had done it habitually for years and found no raised risk of arthritis in the knuckle crackers. Of course, frequent knuckle cracking can reduce grip strength, so maybe keep the habit to a minimum anyway.
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Cavemen lived in caves
To fully unpack this lie, we need to define “cavemen” a bit better. There actually isn’t such a thing as “cavemen”—it’s an old-fashioned term people use when referring to hunter-gatherers and early farmers of the Stone Age. Caves were certainly used during the Paleolithic era as burial spots. Cave walls were used for artwork and they were frequently cooked in. There is evidence that caves were used as shelters during storms, but wild animals at this time would have also been using those caves as shelter. So, sleeping and living in those caves when a hyena or bear might be hiding further inside would not have been a great plan. Stone Age families did live in camps of “bender huts,” which were huts of hazelwood bent into circles and covered in animal skins. By the end of the Stone Age, people were beginning to build larger wooden structures as halls to congregate in.
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The North pole is on the North side of the planet
That’s right. You heard us. North isn’t really North. To explain this one, we’re turning to physics experts Raymond Serway and Chris Wuille. “A small bar magnet is said to have north and south poles, but it’s more accurate to say it has a ‘north-seeking’ pole and a ‘south-seeking’ pole. By these expressions we mean that if such a magnet is used as a compass, one end will ‘seek’ or point to, the geographic North Pole of earth and the other end will ‘seek’ or point to the geographic South Pole of Earth. We conclude that the geographic North Pole of earth corresponds to a magnetic south pole, and the geographic South Pole of Earth corresponds to a magnetic north pole.” Mind officially blown.
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Watching TV too close to the screen will damage your eyes
Nope. You can sit as close as you’d like. In fact, according to vision experts at the Will Vision & Laser Centers, watching the TV doesn’t cause any permanent eye damage to your eye whatsoever. The blue light coming out of the screen could cause eye strain, a temporary condition, but the blue light is going to affect your eyes in the exact same amount regardless of where you sit.
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Humans have five senses
We all learned the sight, sound, smell, touch, taste model of senses in elementary school. This theory dates back to Aristotle, around 300 B.C. But science has advanced a bit since them. Experts still debate the exact number but most agree that humans have at least 10 senses and some claim the number is as high as 22. Harvard School of Medicine, for example, sites six additional senses to the original five, including the sense of balance, the sense of pain, and the perception of time.
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Eating carrots will help your vision
Only if you have a really, roundabout way of looking at things. Vitamin A does help your eyesight, and while carrots don’t have any Vitamin A in them, they do have beta-carotene which the body does convert into Vitamin A. Other foods with beta-carotene? Sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, winter squash, butternut squash, apricots, cantaloupe, and even pumpkin pie. Eggs and milk are also great sources of Vitamin A.
Don’t ever wake up sleepwalkers
If a sleepwalker isn’t in any danger, it is still probably best to let them keep sleeping, but the danger of waking them has nothing to do with their safety, it has to do with yours. It is fairly common for sleepwalkers to attack the person waking them, so if possible, the National Sleep Foundation recommends either gently turning them back in the direction of their bed, or walking near them for a while to ensure they do not get into a car to drive off while still asleep or run into something that could seriously hurt them. If you are unable to return the sleepwalker back to bed, use loud sharp noises from a distance to wake them up.
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Dogs only see black and white
Not true! Dogs are not quite capable of seeing the full-colour spectrum that humans can, but it isn’t just shades of gray for your favourite pups. Dogs see the colours of the world in yellows, blues, and grays. So you may be better off getting a bright yellow toy for your dog than the more common red and orange. Your dog will also have about 20 to 40 per cent of human’s visual acuity, so anything you can see in the distance is going to look pretty blurry to them. But it’s not all downhill for them. Dogs see better in dimmer light and can detect any sort of movement or motion far better than we can.
You can see the Great Wall of China from space
This is sort of true, but mostly not. According to NASA, visitors to the moon can expect to catch a glimpse of the Great Wall of China… with telescopic lenses and zooming features, but certainly not with the naked eye. You can sometimes see the Great Wall in low Earth orbit, but at those heights, there are plenty of man-made structures you’ll catch a glimpse of, like the pyramids. “The only thing you can see from the moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white, some blue, and patches of yellow, and every once in a while, some green vegetations. No man-made object is visible at this scale,” Alan Bean, an astronaut on the Apollo 12, told NASA.
Adam and Eve ate an apple
We see it in artwork, in TV shows, and movies that the forbidden fruit referenced in the bible was an apple, right? Not so much. It is never actually referred to as any specific fruit. Many theologists theorize that, given the other geographical landmarks referenced, the fruit was likely a pomegranate or fig.
You have to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person
Don’t do this! Please! While a police officer or other emergency personnel might advise this in some instances—like if someone is late coming home from work, or they haven’t texted or called you back in a while—if you have reason to believe someone is in trouble, you should call the police immediately. There’s a world of difference between reports that someone coming home from a date isn’t back on time, and someone who is late coming back home from meeting up with someone who has habitually abused them or made them feel scared for their safety isn’t responding to any contact. The RCMP has confirmed: If you’re worried about someone’s safety, call the police. They can advise you on what to do next for your particular situation, and get involved if need be.
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Penguins are monogamous
We’re really sorry to burst your bubble—this one makes us pretty sad too. Research shows that while many penguin species are monogamous during the mating season, they generally find a new mate each year. In addition, while many males tend to stick with their female friend for the season, female penguins are known to have up to three partners each season, and some males are chosen by up to two females. The New York Times even tested the DNA of penguins in captivity and found that 20 per cent of the time, female penguins stray from their long term partners.
On the other hand, check out these real monogamous animals.
You only use 10 per cent of your brain
Not all of your synapsis are firing at once (can you imagine the chaos that would cause?!) but the rest of your brain isn’t just sitting there doing nothing. Your brain is working at full capacity all the time to keep you alive. Neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said the following, “It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time.”
You swallow seven spiders a year
We couldn’t be more thrilled that this turned out to be a lie! Scientific American reports that while most North American homes have three or four spiders living in them, spiders would not want to go anywhere near your bed as it offers no prey (unless you have bedbugs!) and spiders definitely wouldn’t just crawl into your mouth and wait to die. The likelihood of this happening ever in your life is virtually zero, so you can stop worrying about it!
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Peeing on a jellyfish sting alleviates the pain
This old wives’ tale is certainly effective in deterring people from coming too close to jellyfish. After all, no one wants to purposely pee on themselves—or worse, have a friend do it. However, many of you will be surprised (and some, a bit regretful) to learn that the tale is not actually true. Jellyfish stings result from millions of stinging cells on a jellyfish’s tentacle, known as nematocytes, injecting venom into the skin. After getting stung, rather than heading straight to the bathroom—or commissioning a brave friend to come with you—follow three simple steps to alleviate the pain: First, remove the tentacles with something other than your fingers (to prevent further stinging). Next, disable the nematocytes by pouring an acidic compound, such as vinegar, on the site of the sting. Finally, use a flat object to scrape off the stinging cells, and voilà, you have treated your jellyfish sting—without the use of urine!
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If you cross your eyes for too long, they’ll get stuck that way
It happens the same way for everyone. One minute you’re sitting in your high-chair, minding your own business, experimenting with this new eye-trick that you’ve discovered—when suddenly your mother drops the bomb: “If you cross your eyes for too long, they will get stuck that way!” Obviously, internal panic ensues, as you scramble to correct your eyes and ensure that it’s not too late for them to be saved. The jury is finally back on this claim, however, and the verdict is that it’s bogus.
According to Stephen Kronwith, MD, PhD, Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology at NYU Winthrop Hospital on Long Island, “Children cross their eyes for fun, but they can’t hold the position for long, and it’s not dangerous. They’ll see double, but it won’t leave any permanent issues.” His advice? “Just ignore it, and they’ll stop doing it,” Dr. Kronwith says.
Bees are only attracted to the colour yellow
Have you ever noticed a bee hovering dangerously close to your yellow shirt and instantly longed to be wearing the blue one you tossed aside that morning? You’re probably familiar with the old wives’ tale that bees are only attracted to the colour yellow. Surprisingly, however, this is just a myth. According to the New York Botanical Garden, bees perceive colour differently than humans, making them able to recognize colours on the lighter end of the spectrum—like yellow or green. On the other hand, bees see all darker colours as black. Due to their limited eyesight, bees are more likely to pollinate lightly coloured flowers and gravitate toward light clothing (which in their minds are potential flowers). Bottom line? The next time you wish for a blue shirt to relieve you of a bee’s attention, think again!
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Bulls hate the colour red
Bullfighting fans are familiar with the traditional blood-red flag, known as a “muleta,” that the matador dangles in front of his bull opponent, challenging it to charge. While many people believe that the bull chases the flag because of its inherent hatred for the colour red, this is not actually true. In reality, bulls are completely colour blind and are equally as bothered by green and blue flags as they are by red ones. So, what makes the bull surge towards a flapping red flag? The bull is actually instigated by the muleta’s motion, as the matador waves it around the ring.
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You should always follow the “five-second rule”
If you’ve ever let a freshly bought snack slip from your fingers, you’ve probably thought about following the “five-second rule.” This famous rule implies that food can lie on the ground for five whole seconds before becoming contaminated by bacteria. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence of a golden window in which food can be dropped and safely recovered. Arefa Cassobhoy, MD, MPH, medical editor at WebMD, previously told Reader’s Digest what doctors really think about the five-second rule: “Eating food that’s fallen to the ground does come with a risk of taking in bacteria known to cause food poisoning. Research shows food will instantaneously pick up bacteria from the surface it lands on.” Though it may pain you to part with your food, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
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Coffee stunts your growth
You probably heard this old wives’ tale a lot when you were younger, each time that you were denied a taste of your parents’ coffee on the basis that it will stunt your growth. Coffee lovers (and curious kids) rejoice, however, as this common warning is actually a myth! According to Johns Hopkins, the caffeine present in coffee will not affect children’s growth patterns. Furthermore, coffee consumption is actually linked to numerous health benefits, such as the reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, abnormal heart rhythms, strokes, certain cancers, and many other diseases.
You’ll catch a cold if you got outside with wet hair
Getting chilled does not cause a cold—at least not under laboratory conditions. In one study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, two groups of people were exposed to viruses that cause the common cold. One group was exposed to the germs in a chilly 5°C room; the other group, in a balmy 30°C room. The result? Both groups caught colds at about the same rate. Sorry, old wives.
Foods with mayonnaise spoil faster
Turns out this old wives’ tale is not actually true. When you turn your leftover chicken into chicken salad, the mayonnaise actually helps prevent spoilage. Why? Because commercial mayonnaise is somewhat acidic. The upshot: when you’re heading out for a picnic or setting out a buffet, you don’t have to avoid mayonnaise—just be conscious of keeping the food cold. And if you know that there will be leftovers, cover the dish and get it in the refrigerator as quickly as possible.
Feed a cold, starve a fever
Forget the old saying about “starving a fever” to make it go away. (Actually, the original saying was “feed a cold, stave a fever,” stave meaning “to prevent.”) Fasting will weaken you just as you should be preserving your strength. Even if you don’t feel like eating, you should consider trying bland foods, such as chicken soup, toast, or other soothing foods. Contrary to this old wives’ tale, medical experts assert that eating bolsters your immune system and arms your body to fight infections. For the fastest recovery, forget starving your fever.
Chocolate gives you acne
You may have heard this old wives’ tale when you were younger, as you were forced to make the heart-wrenching decision between the rich taste of chocolate and an embarrassing day at school. Chocolate lovers are in luck, however, because experts have ruled that this old wives’ tale is not necessarily true. It is true that a high-fat or high-sugar diet can exacerbate acne and sugary or dairy-filled foods often cause hormone fluctuations, which can also increase acne. However, there is no evidence that consuming moderate amounts of chocolate directly triggers acne—and dark chocolate actually promotes numerous health benefits. The bottom line? Regularly eating large quantities of chocolate can introduce excessive amounts of sugar and fat to your diet, and contribute to increased acne. However, relishing a chocolate bar from time-to-time will not change your skin—only your happiness.
Get your hair squeaky clean
Forget the old wives’ tale about washing your hair until it’s squeaky clean. Shampooing your hair until it squeaks strips the hair shafts of necessary oils. Instead, apply shampoo to the roots only and work it gently into the rest of the hair. Lather only once, rinse thoroughly, and apply conditioner—unless the conditioner is already in the shampoo.
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Turkey makes you tired
Each year on Thanksgiving, as we clean the last lick of turkey and stuffing off of our plates, a wave of exhaustion hits us. Many people identify this sleepy state as a side effect of the turkey, but this is just another old wives’ tale. While meat does contain an amino acid that helps to create melatonin, a brain chemical known for making people tired, turkey does not actually cause more fatigue than other foods. So, why are you tired after your Thanksgiving banquet? The large quantities of carbohydrates and alcohol that most people consume on this holiday are the real culprits behind this widespread fatigue, so you can pardon the poor turkeys—of blame, at least!
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