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Five Scientific Realities That Defy Conventional Wisdom

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Every person has unique views of personal reality. Some perspectives are grounded in scientific knowledge and confirmed by replicable evidence, while alternate views are constructed from beliefs developed primarily through personal experience.

Regardless of the source, your beliefs may result in irrefutable convictions that guide behavior, including who you interact with and how you conduct your life. Suppose you believe that all dogs are vicious. Thus, you avoid dogs at all costs.

One day you venture outside and are attacked by a four-pound Chihuahua. Your belief is validated, and therefore your dog theory must be true…but would science agree?

Beliefs are considered unjustified when the views are contrary to established scientific principles. There is little evidence that unprovoked, domesticated canines arbitrarily attack random humans. Examples of common false beliefs include the notion that suicides are more likely during the holiday season, that most women’s moods worsen during their premenstrual cycles (PMS), and that switching among different types of alcohol leads to greater intoxication than drinking one alcohol type (Furnham & Hughes, 2014).

While believing these misconceptions may be foolhardy, other false beliefs can derail careers, impede the thinking process, and even harm our ability to be personally successful.

Here are five findings supported by scientific evidence, which are often contradicted by prevailing, culturally appropriate beliefs:

Over 40 Percent of the Population Hallucinates Regularly

Hallucinations are defined as “perceptual experiences that occur in the absence of external stimuli,” otherwise known as hearing voices (Ludici et al., 2019, p. 811). Various studies reveal that up to 40 percent of the non-psychotic population (those not diagnosed with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia) report hallucinatory experiences.

Mental health professionals describe the voicing phenomenon as non-pathological and reflective of healthy individuals. Typical reasons for the supernatural occurrence include post-traumatic stress, cultural and religious influences, and a strong need to reduce anxiety. If you hear voices, don’t fret because hallucinations have positive consequences, including a better ability to problem solve and overcome day-to-day obstacles.

Most People Change Jobs for Reasons Other Than Money

According to author Leigh Branham (2012) and survey data from 19,700 employees, 89 percent of managers believe money is the primary cause of employee turnover. The same survey revealed that 88 percent of employees leave for reasons unrelated to salary. Why do employees quit their jobs?

No single reason is responsible for turnover, but research reveals that lack of employer respect, mismatches between employee expectations and the current job, minimal development opportunities, and lack of employer trust all contribute to turnover.

Surprisingly, employers often make the erroneous conclusion that money is the best motivator for retention, not realizing that increased wages, while helpful, only motivate individuals on a short-term basis (Mulla, 2006).

People Who Deceive Are Easily Deceived

You might think that when you are deliberately trying to deceive someone, you would be savvy enough to detect when someone is trying to fool you. As it turns out, those who like to tell tall tales are not insulated from being hoodwinked and actually more prone to believe false information than an honest person! You might also think that “smart” people are not bullshit prone.

However, the exceptional cognitive ability does not lessen the likelihood of being misled (Littrel et al., 2021). Intelligence does matter when it comes to bullshitting effectiveness. Those with higher intelligence have been found to bullshit less yet tend to be more successful in deceiving others than their high-frequency, low-brow peers.

Teaching to a Preferred Learning Style Makes Learning Worse

A learning style suggests that people learn better when information is presented in one modality compared to another. Examples of learning styles include visual, auditory, and hands-on learning. Ask most students, parents, and even teachers if there is an optimal learning style and most reply “yes.” The learning styles myth is the most prevalent in education.

Many school districts openly conduct professional development sessions to perpetuate the myth despite the lack of evidence to support the existence of learning styles. In reality, learning is optimized when considering existing knowledge, the topic, and the learning context.

Teaching to a learning style is harmful because when the information is not presented in the learner’s preferred style, they tend to filter out the information, impeding learning (Kirschner, 2017).

Repetition of False Information Makes It More Believable

Elephants weigh less than ants, more people fly to work than drive, and George Washington was born in China! These outlandish statements are almost universally rated as false, except under one condition. If the statements are repeated to the same person more than once, the statements are rated as truer than during the initial exposure (Lacassagne et al., 2022).

The more exposure to the false statement, the more believable it becomes. While none of the participants in the above-referenced study were fully convinced that the statements above were accurate, truth ratings increased in proportion to the number of times the information was presented.

This odd repetition phenomenon is known as the “illusory truth effect,” a concept readily embraced by advertisers, politicians, and anyone else who wants to make the unbelievable sound more credible. Why does it happen? When we hear or see information more frequently, the cognitive processing of the information is easier.

Humans are known to be cognitively lazy, so it is easier to accept the false information as truer to avoid thinking deeply about the topic. Repetition breeds acceptance, and acceptance portends truth.

So, if you reread this article, in all likelihood, you will conclude that the bizarre findings described and the advanced inferences are indeed undeniably true.

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