Myths & Facts



Date of Publication
February, 2013

Sometimes we use a myths/facts approach in community education. Is it useful? Not really.

Take this example from a flyer from the Centers for Disease Control.

The flu shot can cause the flu.
The flu shot cannot cause the flu. Some people get a little soreness or redness where they get the shot.

Researchers read the flyer to people, and got some surprising results. Within 30 minutes, older people remembered about a third of the false statements as true. Three days later, it jumped to 40% believing the myth as factual.

Young people didn't do much better. After three days, they did about as well as the older folks did after 30 minutes. Our brains store information in shorthand, often using vague associations. Denying a myth requires bringing it up, and that can reaffirm it for participants as true.

The tip? The path to truth isn't always through the lies.

Lots of the time, you can start right with the truth.