These 15 Widely Accepted Truths Are Actually False, And Now I'm Questioning Everything

·13 min read

After recently learning, researching, and then debunking some widely believed myths that are actually totally false, I was inspired to investigate more supposed "truths" that I could pick apart like a crow.

FOX / Via

Most are from u/Sera0Sparrow's original thread, but I dug around to find a couple more myths that stood out to me.

So, here are even more accepted "facts" that are so false:

1."That bulls get angered by the color red. They are color blind, so it really makes no difference. It's the waving of the cape that gets to them."

Matador facing off with a bull in blurred motion


The MythBusters team tested out this trope back in 2007 by remotely waving three different colored flags — red, white, and blue — in front of a bull via a clothesline. The bull charged each flag just the same. To further test this color theory, a team member jumped into the ring with the bull while wearing a red jumpsuit and stayed still, while two professional cowboys ran around the ring. The bull paid no mind to the red jumpsuit, proving that the movement of a waving cape is what taunts the bull.

So why red? Long ago in bull fights, the matador would use the cape, or muleta, to conceal a sword in the final round. When the bull charges towards them, the matador would pierce the bull with sword, and the red cape would conceal the bloodstains. It makes sense, but now I feel sad.

Eric O'connell / Getty Images

2."Getting caught in the rain can cause a cold."

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A cold is caused by a virus, not the weather. What's actually happening is that certain cold viruses, like rhinovirus, thrive in low temperatures. That's why they spread more easily during the winter, or when it's raining. So you can catch a cold when it's raining, but not because it's raining. Even more reasons to wear a mask, or not kiss strangers in the rain (unless you're in a rom-com!).

3."That it's illegal to film someone in public. It is absolutely legal to film a person without their consent in a public place."

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In the States, it's generally legal to record someone, either through video or audio, if they're somewhere they don't have a "reasonable expectation of privacy." If you're in a public bathroom or your own home, for example, there is an expectation of privacy. But when we're out in public, people aren't necessarily entitled to that. And that's why we have the gift of that infamous Apple store Vine.

There's always exceptions, but if you ever have a meltdown out in the streets and end up on r/PublicFreakout, just know that it's likely law-compliant.

4."That someone can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We expect people to be successful using this as an example, but this phrase was coined as an impossibility."


Today, the phrase "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is used to convey self-reliance and advice to pull yourself out of poverty, particularly when it's tossed around in politics. However, its modern usage is incredibly ironic since the phrase was first used in 1836 to convey the impossible task of lifting yourself over a fence by pulling your bootstraps. This will help you put your boots on, but not jump a fence.

As the phrase was passed on, its humorous intent was lost and it began to be taken literally around the early twentieth century, just a few years ahead of the Great Depression. How convenient.

5."That you can use a defibrillator (paddles) to restart a stopped heart. You do regular CPR for that. The paddles are meant to shock an arhythmic heartbeat back onto a normal rhythm. They won’t work on a heart that has flatlined."

Fox / Via


Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, send an electric shock to an erratically-beating heart and, ideally, interrupt an irregular rhythm so that the heart can beat at a normal pace. An AED automatically determines whether a victim's heart needs an electric shock or not, so if the person's heart shows a flatline — no electrical activity — and if they are not breathing, the defibrillator will not deliver a current. To be clear, you should still attempt to use the pads on someone that is unconscious (no heartbeat and not breathing) after immediately calling 911 and initiating CPR. However, if the pads do not deliver a current, that person needs CPR and cannot be shocked back to life. The defibrillator will not even allow it.

So why does this myth still persist today? Hollywood, baby!

6."That the stock market represents the economy. There is no correlation between fluctuations in stock indices and GDP."

A man clutches his head in frustration while watching stock prices plummet


In the first year of the pandemic, unemployment rates skyrocketed, corporate profits plummeted, and many small businesses had no choice but to permanently close up shop, but the stock market was doing extremely well. April 2020 was the S&P stock index's best month in 33 years.

That's because the majority of shares in the stock market are owned by the richest people in the States, not the middle class. And the wealthy elite are a lot less likely to be affected by any economic downturn, so they're able to invest in huge corporations like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

Historians believe that the stock market remains linked to the country's economic health because of the 1929 stock market crash. The S&P fell an astounding 86% within two years, and with little economic information, Americans believed that this was the cause of the Great Depression. The perception that these two are connected has stayed intact ever since.

Caroline Purser / Getty Images

7."That ancient humans were very stupid, which for some reason to this day has been insanely persistent."

Chalkboard illustration of progression of evolution


When geologist William King introduced the European scientific community to Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, or Neanderthals, in 1864, he took one look at the oblong Neanderthal skull he was examining and was like, "Wow, these people were mad stupid." I'm totally paraphrasing here, but his assessment has stuck with us ever since.

Now, the majority of researchers agree that Neanderthals were highly intelligent, extremely innovative, and impressively compassionate beings. They created highly functioning tools like spearpoints, knives, and stone tools for woodworking. Neanderthal skeletons that show extreme signs of trauma, like partially-crushed skulls and worn-down knees, are proof that these people cared for one other. They even buried each other.

New discoveries have even shown that they even made and wore their accessories (drop the Etsy links please!) and more than likely had some facility for language. So put some respect on our ancestors!

Altmodern / Getty Images

8."Swimming after eating isn't dangerous, nor does it cause cramps. But waiting 30 minutes or an hour makes it much less likely for kids to vomit in the pool."

Girl relaxing in the pool drinking smoothies and eating fruit plate, smoothie bowl by the hotel pool


The myth goes that immediately swimming right after eating can trigger a muscle cramp, putting you in danger of drowning. Very dramatic. And so not true. We have plenty of blood in our bodies to digest food and power our muscles for a casual swim. And if you do experience discomfort, it wouldn't be drastic enough to stop you from swimming back to safety (unless you can't swim, but then why are you even in deep water?).

It's unknown where this myth originated from, though its earliest record of appearance was in the 1908 Boy Scouts manual. And that's why I never joined the Boy Scouts.

Galitskaya / Getty Images/iStockphoto

9."It's not true that corsets were deathtraps. Most women didn’t mind wearing them!"


We've all heard it (and I'm guilty of perpetuating it): corsets were so tight that fainting couches were a necessity, so Victorian women could pass out on them. To quote Maury Povich, "that was also a lie." Those "fainting couches" were just daybeds, and that misnomer wasn't used until well after the Victorian era. Besides that, corsets were working garments, so they morphed with the people who wore them and came with built-in flexibility. Even working-class women wore corsets, so they needed to be functional. There were even corsets for cycling.

It's safe to say that corsets are in their Reputation era, and that the misinformation about them is rooted in later society ridiculing women fashion as a desperate attempt to attract male attention. As if!

10."Is it too soon to talk about how GMOs are actually safe and beneficial to sustainable food chains? Or is that still a touchy subject?"

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Did you also watch Degrassi: The Next Generation? When Emma boycotted the school cafeteria for serving GMO foods (iconic) my adolescent self was very inspired. Turns out that we were both misguided.

Not only are GMO foods regulated by three different federal agencies to ensure safety in the States, but the arguments against genetically modified foods are (consciously) packaged in complicated language to discourage people from reading, and realizing, that these foods are modified with proteins and bacteria that are already found in nature. In fact, it's because of genetic engineering that certain fruits and vegetables are able to continue being grown after almost being wiped out by viruses transmitted by insects and other pests, like Hawaiian papayas in the 90s.

Critics of GMOs blast genetic engineering as dangerous and random, but ignore "the far greater randomness of mutation in nature and the far greater imprecision of traditional breeding." So stick that in your genetically modified apple pipe and smoke it.

11."The Red Scare wasn't so much about 'rooting out subversive communists' as it was about weakening labor and de-segregation movements. And boy, did it work."

A group of protesters demonstrate holding placards against Communist sympathizers outside the Fox Wilshire Theatre in Los Angeles, California December 1960


The Second Red Scare rose with the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947. Anyone that challenged the government's policies during this era were in danger of being labeled a communist, including labor union leaders and de-segregation advocates. Even Martin Luther King Jr. was accused of being a communist for his civil rights demonstrations by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, which had a damning effect on King's influence while he was still alive.

Hoover, former President Truman, and the infamous senator Joseph McCarthy, all jumped at labeling any kind of protest as a communist effort. It was a tactic to impede labor unions and the equal rights movement led by Black Americans. And because it played on Americans' fear of communism at the time, it worked.

American Stock Archive / Getty Images

12."Women get 'looser' the more sex they have."


Besides being blatantly misogynistic, this is totally false. There is absolutely no evidence that sex causes a vagina to loosen up over time. Someone with a vagina having sex for the first time may cause a slight stretch in the hymen, the thin membrane around the vagina, which may make the vagina feel slightly more open. However, this is totally normal. And healthy.

During sexual arousal, the muscles of the vagina relax and will temporarily open up before, during, and after sex to help penetration, but will return to its usual shape. Also, every vagina is different. Parts of any body evolve as our age, weight, and health changes with time, not because someone's having more sex than you.

13."There used to be a thing in Korea about 'Fan Death', a belief that a running fan would eventually deprive a room of oxygen and kill any occupants in there, if it was left running too long. The belief still somewhat exists today, and all fans sold there were usually equipped with an automatic safety shut-off timer mechanism."

Girl lying down on carpet while electric fan is operating


Fans operate to circulate the air in a room, not affect it. It's impossible that a fan could aid in oxygen being used up in a room, or release a deadly amount of carbon dioxide into the air, because homes are rarely (if ever) built to be airtight. This is to ensure that sufficient air can leak into and out of a room and prevent suffocation.

This distrust of electrical fans in Korea first appeared in print in 1927, when a newspaper warned readers that fans could circulate stale air and possibly lead to asphyxiation. The myth blew up decades later after a Korean man was found dead in his apartment, with two electrical fans still on. It got so out of hand that the Korean Consumer Protection Board put out a warning in 2006 to dissuade people from sleeping with the fan on. And while it's since been disproven, like most urban legends, it's hard for this myth to completely go away.

Primagefactory / Getty Images/iStockphoto

14."The belief that the Sun is yellow. Actually, the Sun is white. If you look at it during the day (not a good idea), you'll see that it's white."

Sun over planet Earth, in space


The Sun is actually all colors mixed together, and our human eyes perceive it as white. When we can actually look at the Sun during sunrise or sunset, its short-wavelength colors (green, blue, violet) are scattered out by the Earth's thick atmosphere. Our eyes are only able to pick up the red, yellow, and orange colors that cut through the thick atmosphere of our planet. So while I'm thankful for my eyes, it seems like they're holding me back.

Andrzej Wojcicki / Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

15."That poor posture leads to body pain. That’s actually rarely the case."

Person on the left discussing body posture while person on the right sits slumped over while typing on his laptop


There is no scientific evidence that accurately links posture, good or 'bad', with pain. In fact, there was a study that determined that people who are experiencing body pain do not have different postures from those who are pain-free. So, if you're noticing any pain in relation to your posture, it could be that you're looking for pain. The pain you may be experiencing is more likely due to age and infrequent movement or exercise. Another study compared two groups of people with and without shoulder pain, and found that there was no difference in shoulder posture or movement between these two groups.

Still not convinced? There's another study that examined people without back pain to determine if it's because of their posture. Even these people, who were pain-free, had a slumping posture. And it had no effect on their spinal curve.

If you're looking to improve any postural pain, it's more helpful to keep moving and regularly change from a poor position to another poor position instead of letting your body adapt to one specific position for several hours (because there is no "perfect posture").

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Which ones surprised you the most? What are some commonly believed "facts" that you've recently learned are totally false? Let me know in the comments!

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity. #5 in this article has been updated to be more clear that AEDs will determine whether or not someone has a shockable rhythm.