These 28 Widely Accepted Truths Are Actually False, And Now I Have Trust Issues

·20 min read

I'm going to be honest with y'all. I'm so gullible that I'm a liability. So when u/Sera0Sparrow called for widely believed myths that are not true, I read through all the comments...and gasped several times.


When someone tells me a "fact" or rumor they heard with enough confidence, I'm pretty quick to put my trust in them.

I was so shocked that I had to dig further for many of these myths to fully understand just how much I've been lied to for most of my life. So here are just some of the debunked "myths" that had me questioning my entire existence:

1."That you need to wait 24 hours to report a missing person. If you sincerely think someone is missing, then report it. The faster that a missing person report is filed, the better chance there is that the person will be found. This is especially crucial when it comes to missing children."

—u/didnsignup4disOne need not wait a whole-ass day to notify the police of a missing person, yet this myth is still falsely perpetuated in film and television today. The truth: If someone you know goes missing, report them missing immediately. Those first few hours are crucial, especially if they're a child, over the age of 65, or have a mental or physical condition that leaves them at risk. Police won't allocate all resources toward every missing person report that comes in right away but they have to take your report and follow up on it.


One need not wait a whole-ass day to notify the police of a missing person, yet this myth is still falsely perpetuated in film and television today. The truth: If someone you know goes missing, report them missing immediately. Those first few hours are crucial, especially if they're a child, over the age of 65, or have a mental or physical condition that leaves them at risk.

Police won't allocate all resources toward every missing person report that comes in right away but they have to take your report and follow up on it.


2."That coffee stunts your growth."

Boy dressed as a businessman, sitting in a taxi using a laptop computer


There's no scientific evidence of a link between coffee consumption and stunted growth. In fact, the myth most likely comes from the just-as-false misconception that coffee causes osteoporosis, a condition often associated with height loss.

Further analyses of earlier studies that suggested caffeine intake increases the risk of osteoporosis revealed that those who drank more coffee also drank less milk and other calcium-containing beverages. Translation: It was probably the dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D among coffee drinkers, not the coffee, that increased the risk of osteoporosis.

Digital Vision. / Getty Images

3."Anyone who says you can trim fat in 'X' area by doing 'Y' exercises is lying. That's totally impossible. You lose fat proportionally over all areas of your body. You can't just target one area to work on."

Jeca Martinez / Via


It's easy to understand where the myth of targeted weight loss comes from. We want it to be true. But scientific research and basic human biology prove, once again, that what we want to do isn't necessarily what we're going to do. Womp.

When we exercise (ew), the fat contained in fat cells, triglycerides, breaks down into glycerol and free fatty acids before entering the bloodstream. So triglycerides used by our muscle cells as fuel can come from anywhere and not necessarily the area you're working out most. Cardio and weight training are what'll actually help you bring out definition in the certain body part you're trying to target.

4."MSG is harmful and East Asian cuisine is bad because of MSG."

Chef David Chang asks a group of participants if they're experiencing any symptoms after they discover the snacks they've been eating have MSG


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a widely used flavor enhancer derived from L-glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid in a variety of food products. Yeah, it's natural. Acclaimed chef David Chang even gave the controversial ingredient a spotlight on Ugly Delicious to prove that most perceived symptoms are actually a placebo effect. MSG is not just in Chinese food. It's in many common foods and snacks, including Chick-fil-A's chicken sandwich.

So why the bad reputation? The culprit: the New England Journal of Medicine's 1968 publication of a letter from a doctor complaining of sickness after eating at Chinese restaurants, totally disregarding that overeating would make anyone feel nauseous. The letter (and subsequent studies with similar hypotheses) was eventually slammed for its methodological flaws yet many people wrote in about their own experiences that turned them anti-MSG. It turns out that what they were actually exhibiting was xenophobia. Ironically, the doctor who wrote that 1968 letter was actually Chinese American.

It really is your own people sometimes.


5.“That rice will fix the phone you dropped into the pool. That doesn’t do anything other than get rice stuck in your charging port. Instead, turn your phone off right away, dry it off with a towel, and set it in front of a fan. It’ll do more, I promise.”

Cartoon of a mobile phone drowning in water


It makes sense why we believe rice will heal our wet phones — rice absorbs moisture. However, one experiment showed that rice is actually the least effective household item that absorbs moisture. Apple even suggests putting your wet phone in a dry area with airflow. It doesn't even mention rice.

In fact, the starch in rice can actually speed up the corrosion process if your phone gets wet and can lead to rust.

Netflix / Via

6."The belief that 'lightning never strikes twice in the same place.' Actually it does and sometimes with great frequency."



If you watch lightning during a thunderstorm, you'd see for yourself that the common saying isn't meant to be taken literally. Lightning usually does strike in the same place. It's actually the norm. The reason: Lightning hits the same location because the electrical discharge follows the path of least resistance.

Lightning can even strike the same person repeatedly, which unfortunately happened to Roy times.

7."That some people are more left-brained or right-brained. The brain has a lot of cells and they all work together. There are plenty of different types of brain cells (neurons) but they don’t operate in isolation."

Old Spice / Via


You've probably been told you're in the left side of your brain if you're more logical and in the right side of your brain if you're more creative, but recent studies using brain imaging technology prove that being more dominant in one side of your brain isn't possible. It's true that certain functions are specific to either hemisphere of your brain, which is probably where the myth comes from. But in order to be alive, we use both parts of our brain.

8."That a polygraph test can actually be used to detect if someone is lying."

Shawn Mendes explains his thoughts on Taylor Swift's boyfriend Joe Alwyn during a lie detector test


Polygraph tests are largely inconsistent and not even accepted as evidence by most courts. Heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity are what's actually monitored by polygraph tests. Someone who's telling the truth can be really anxious (especially in front of police) and someone who's lying could be calm throughout — both would give inaccurate results.

Against the American Psychology Association's recommendation, many police departments still use polygraph tests. They're not completely useless. Guilty suspects who believe the tests work might end up confessing. So while results from a test should not at all be taken at face value, they're potentially useful in investigations. They also look really cool on camera.

Vanity Fair / Via

9."Popping your knuckles causes arthritis."

A boxer cracks her knuckles


There's nothing harmful about popping your knuckles, neck, fingers, or any other joints. It does nothing great either. The noise you hear when you pop your knuckles is simply nitrogen bubbles bursting in our synovial, or joint, fluid. Any satisfaction you feel from this is mostly psychological. Any discomfort you might feel is a possible sign of a preexisting condition like arthritis, trauma, or gout.

Keep cracking, y'all.

John Fedele / Getty Images/Tetra images RF

10."The alpha/beta social hierarchy that we 'observed' in wolves. The researcher who performed the experiment realized he had made many mistakes in his original take and has spent the rest of his life trying to undo the damage that report has created."

Tyler Posey as Scott in werewolf form roars at a wild wolf in "Teen Wolf"


Rudolph Schenkel's infamous hypothesis was based on his observation of a pack of wolves in 1947. He noticed that one male and one female wolf controlled the rest of the wolves and seemingly defended their position as heads of the pack, or alphas, by keeping the other wolves in submission. What was overlooked was that Schenkel wasn't even observing wild wolves; he was studying wolves in a Swiss zoo. On top of that, the "alpha" wolves turned out to just be parents. But by then, people took Schenkel's theory and ran with it, including well-known wolf researcher David Mech, who popularized the theory in his book. Ruh-roh.

And, for whatever reason, insecure men took an incorrect theory about wolves and applied it to human male social behavior, giving rise to the "alpha males" you've probably encountered in grimy bars and frat parties. Love that for us!


11."Adding another lane will make traffic go away."



Countless research has shown that making a highway wider with another lane usually makes traffic worse since it encourages drivers to move around or switch lanes. When one driver brakes, the cars behind them inevitably have to as well. If all cars moved at a constant speed, it's very likely that traffic would slim down. Of course, that will probably never happen with humans behind the wheel.

12."People think we swallow a bunch of spiders every year in our sleep."

Now This / Via


We are way too big for spiders to consider us prey and intentionally crawl into bed with us. If they do end up on you, it's because you're part of the landscape — like a big, sexy rock. On top of that, spiders are very sensitive to vibrations. If your mouth is open, you're probably snoring and that alone is enough to ward off any eight-legged friends.

It's been said that this "fact" was started by a group trying to prove how easily lies spread, but that's actually a myth as well. It was actually an April Fool's joke, which some people figured out when they discovered that the name of the supposed columnist who came up with this myth — Lisa Birgit Holst — is an anagram for "this is a big troll." I just love the internet.

13."Thanksgiving is something that spurred peace and harmony among settlers and Native people."

A Plymouth settler attacks someone from the Wampanoag tribe, unprovoked


Thanksgiving 1621. Plymouth, Massachusetts. The "first Thanksgiving." It turns out that the native Wampanoag tribe broke bread with the settlers in pursuit of a strategic alliance, not because they wanted to be welcoming hosts. So many of the Wampanoag had died because of an epidemic disease brought in by the influx of Europeans migrating to America, and tribe leader Ousamequin saw the English as a way to fend off tribal rebels. The first Thanksgiving was not the bountiful, friendly feast that public education painted it to be. Since the English had been previously celebrating Thanksgiving with fasting and prayer, there likely wasn't even turkey.

The friendly Thanksgiving myth also doesn't acknowledge the deteriorating relationship — as more colonists came in, the Wampanoag's land and ways of life were further infringed upon — eventually culminating in the devastating King Philip's War. Nearly 8,000 Native Americans were killed.

Any good feelings you have about the holiday is likely inspired by Abraham Lincoln, when he officially proclaimed the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. Yet the Wampanoag tribe openly proclaims that helping the people of Plymouth was probably their "biggest mistake." Yikes.

Uncivil History / Via

14."The belief that touching a fawn or a baby bird will make the mother abandon it."

Pixar / Via


First of all, birds can't really smell well so they wouldn't pick up on human scent if you touched their babies. Second, a deer doesn't just abandon its fawn after carrying it for seven months because it's got human stench on it.

When animals do abandon their young, it's not because of smell. It's usually because of disturbance, like messing with their nest and generally compromising the mother's sense of security. So if you're trying to save a baby animal, please carry on and then leave it alone if possible. The parent is probably nearby, waiting for you to leave...watching your every move.

15."People taking Emergen-C to get over a cold."

Kate McKinnon as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ingests a very large packet of Emergen-C on "Saturday Night Live" as Colin Jost watches


One serving of Emergen-C boasts 1,000mg of vitamin C. The recommended daily dosage for adults is between 75mg and 90mg. This extreme excess of vitamin C won't reduce how long or how intense your cold is, though it could prevent you from catching one...because it's supplying your immune system with that recommended dose. In short, get your daily dose of vitamin C. Anything over? You'll probably just end up pissing it out.

Nbc / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

16."The Middle Ages were less barbaric and dark than we think."

The cast of the animated series "Dave the Barbarian"


It turns out that the backward-thinking, barbaric depiction of medieval society was actually a smear campaign that originated in the early Renaissance era. Labeling the previous era of the 5th to late-15th century as the "Dark Ages" naturally painted humanist society as a progressive step toward becoming more civilized. Victorian society also used this depiction to help justify evangelical Christianity.

In truth, society during the Middle Ages was actually pretty clean and smart. People took hot baths, the widespread adoption of water mills in Europe during the time revolutionized power and agrarian needs, and many already believed the Earth was round. Also, a lot of supposed torture methods from the medieval era are actually fake devices made during the Victorian era.

Huh. Maybe the tight-as-hell wigs and corsets during the Victorian era hindered circulation to the brain?


17."It's illegal to have your interior light on in the car while you're driving."

Nickelodeon / Via


It's totally legal to drive with the light on in your car at night. But if you are doing anything illegal, you're more likely to be seen. It's also unsafe in general to drive with the dome light on at night since it impedes what you can see outside the car when it's dark outside.

18."That nuclear power is extremely dangerous and worse than fossil fuels in both the short and long term."

FOX / Via


Behind wind and solar energy, nuclear power is the safest and cleanest energy source available. It's drastically safer for us and our environment to invest in nuclear energy instead of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Nuclear plants do not emit any CO2 or air pollution as they operate and already supply almost 20% of the energy in the US within the last 20 years.

The case against nuclear power is mostly fear-based. A lot of that fear comes from government responses or freakouts to the accidents at Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl. The latter resulted in 50 deaths (as estimated by the United Nations), which is significant, but in comparison, fossil fuel pollution was responsible for 8 million people dying in 2018.

19."That eating sugar makes kids hyper. Parents perpetuate this myth by saying it around kids so kids just behave according to their parents' expectations."

MLB / Via


A 1994 study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology revealed that the concept of a sugar rush is all in our heads. In the experiment, all kid participants were given a placebo for sugar, though half were told that they were given sugar. The mothers of the children that received "sugar" closely monitored their kid's behavior and were significantly more scrutinizing — they were looking for hyperactivity.

It's also important to keep in mind where kids are having excess sugar. If they're at a birthday party with their friends and have eaten a lot of sweets, they're likely more hyper because they're having fun, not because of the sugar.

20."Daylight savings time was started for farmers."

Young shirtless man standing with arms crossed at alley amid plants in greenhouse


America adopted daylight saving time in 1918, after Germany first did so to conserve coal usage during World War I. The idea was that if summer daytime is extended one hour into the evening, that's one less hour of darkness that needs energy for lighting or temperature control.

Farmers actually hate it. Moving forward/backward an hour messes with animals' feeding and milking schedule because they do not worship clocks like we do. Daylight savings time also affects farmworkers' schedules. At this point, we still follow it for no reason besides "tradition."

Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

21."Rainwater will make your windows dirty."

Buena Vista / Via


Rain is literally just water. That's it. Rain is helpful in keeping exteriors clean but it will also move around dirt, pollen, dust, and grime that have been collecting on or around your window. When the rain dries, all that dirt is very noticeable. So if your windows appear dirty after it rains, you're either seeing dried-up backsplash from groundwater or they were dirty to begin with. Clean your car.

22."That urinating on a jellyfish sting will help or do anything at all."

Matt LeBlanc as Joey announces he'd pee on any one in "Friends" if they got stung by a jellyfish


It's unclear how this myth originated but it was definitely put into the mainstream because of the 1997 Friends episode when Monica reveals that Chandler peed on her leg to relieve her pain from a jellyfish sting.

Jellyfish tentacles are equipped with stinging cells or cnidocytes. These cells hold nematocysts, which contain venom. The pain you feel from a jellyfish sting is instant and it's because of these nematocysts. It's best to rinse a jellyfish sting with saltwater instead of peeing on it because if the urine is diluted enough to be similar to freshwater, it'll dilute the salts outside these cnidocytes and trigger the nematocysts to release more venom. So piss on your enemies, not your friends.


23."'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!' Bro...that was a commercial. You’ve spent your entire life repeating a commercial from before you were born."

An unhappy fast-food breakfast


It turns out that the staple quote is indeed a marketing slogan popularized by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg — yes, of Kellogg's — to promote breakfast cereal. It first appeared in a 1917 Good Health magazine article and it's stuck ever since. And while eating breakfast can help replenish nutrients burned during sleep, many of the studies that supported these "breakfast is important" claims were actually funded by cereal empires. The benefits of eating breakfast are legitimate but the claims that it's the most important meal are not.

All meals are equal so it's more useful to be mindful of your total daily calorie content and possibly spread your meals out, rather than having your largest meal in the morning.

John W Banagan / Getty Images

24."If you get a raise that puts you into a new tax bracket, you will actually owe more money. My mom used to think getting a raise would result in her making less. Then, when I entered the workforce, I saw someone say something similar. I was shocked to learn that this was a common belief."

jjjjjohn / Via


When additional income pushes you into a higher tax bracket, you'll only pay the higher tax rate on that portion of your income that falls into that higher taxable income range. That's because the US tax system is tiered into tax brackets, with income being taxed at the different levels of taxable income ranges rather than an individual being taxed according to their entire income.

For example, if you have a taxable income of $42,000 in 2021 as a single taxpayer, the first $9,950 is subject to 10% tax, the next $30,575 is subject to 12% tax, and the remaining $1,475 is subject to 22% tax. So getting paid more does not result in a lower net income.

Take that raise!

25."Touching a frog/toad will give you warts."

FOX / Via


No amphibians will give you warts. The myth likely comes from the wart-looking bumps that spot a frog, though those are just glands. If you get warts sometime after touching a frog, what you may actually have is human papilloma virus, which is super common.

26."For Americans, the concept of trickle-down economics — that lowering taxes for rich people creates jobs. It’s been disproven by economists and is anecdotally untrue looking at our history since 1980, but it drives most of our politics today."

Nickelodeon / Via


Tax cuts for the rich only helps rich people become even more rich. Many of us already knew this but a study from the London School of Economics that examined the economy of 18 different countries, including the United States, from 1965 to 2015 confirmed what, again, many of us already suspected. Wealth has never trickled down to the middle and lower class in countries that lower taxes on wealthy people's income.

Historically, periods with the highest economic growth and lowest unemployment rates are during postwar periods, when taxes on the rich were at their highest.

27."'If you pee in the public pool, the water around you will turn purple.' I'm not complaining about being bamboozled for years because public pools would be half piss if it didn't exist."

Kevin James as Eric is surrounded by blue dye after peeing in the pool at the water park in "Grown Ups"


Speaking of trickle, there is no dye that exists that will change the color of your pee in a pool. With that said, there's other ways to know if someone has peed in a pool, such as if your eyes turn red after going in. Peeing in a pool depletes chlorine and produces an irritant that causes red eyes. Gross.

Sony Pictures

28.And finally, "circumcision having most of the health benefits that it is claimed to have."

Banana with the tip of the peel cut off to show the concept of male circumcision


The circumcision debate is alive and well. While there are several studies on both sides of the argument, the bottom line is that circumcision does not have a significant impact on the health of babies or infants. It really comes down to preference and the influence of religious, social, and cultural factors. Some parents are extremely dedicated to cutting their baby's foreskin.

I'd be remiss to not address that circumcision complications make up a significant percentage of cases seen by pediatric urologists and that the advertised benefits of circumcision — lower risks of contracting UTIs and STIs — are marginal at best, especially considering sexual health and overall hygiene have come a long way since the first foreskin was sliced.

Personally, I'm just a little bitter that my parents gave me the snip but, yeah, life goes on. Do what you want!

Bogdan Khmelnytskyi / Getty Images/iStockphoto

What "truths" have you recently discovered are totally false? Let me know in the comments!

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.