Saturday, March 10, 2018

When Commonly Believed Ideas Turn out to be False

When I list a whole lot of stupid, money-wasting studies "proving" things we already know on my periodic blog posts from my favorite journals, "Duh!" and "No Sh*t, Sherlock," I often hear the argument that we still need to do these studies because at times things thought to be obvious turn out to be wrong.

While that does indeed happen very rarely, most of the time when a commonly-believed proposition turns out to be false, it's because 1 or the other of 2 conditions was operating:

1. Evidence that calls the proposition into question had been systematically ignored or devalued ("Kids with ADHD are able to appear to be able to concentrate while engaged in video games, but that isn't really concentration"), or

2. The proposition was just an old wives' tale that someone pulled out of their ass and that was never based on widespread observations in the first place ("You should drink eight glasses of water per day").  

This issue relates to the widespread use of certain charges made by those in the fields of psychology and psychiatry with various oxen to gore. They pooh-pooh ideas by saying that the conclusions that some of us base primarily on our clinical experience and multiple observations are automatically invalid because they are based on so-called “anecdotal evidence.” I dissected “anecdotal evidence” in my post of March 11, 2014.

I still maintain that you don’t need a scientific study to prove that the sky looks blue to non-colorblind people at the equator at noon on a cloudless day.


  1. Is white lies also included as common believed ideas turn to a false?

    1. Yes, some are based on white lies if you mean, for instance, white lies told to patients by doctors to get them to cooperate (for example, telling someone who needs an antidepressant that they have a "chemical imbalance," or that wiping off an arm with an alcohol swab before drawing someone's blood actually decreases the risk of infection).