5 Sayings Smart People Love To Debunk (Science Proved True)
Most sayings are bullshit: They say Rome wasn't built in a day, but our SimCity game says otherwise. They say a dog's bark is worse than its bite, but that's only on the off-chance that it's a toothless dog with, like, a really high-pitched, annoying bark. They say a rolling stone gathers no moss, so why does Keith Richards look like an Ent? Nobody really has faith that every idiom is some sort of scientifically validated truth. But maybe we should ...
"Wear A Sweater Or You'll Catch A Cold"
Your mom said: "Put on a sweater before you go outside, or you'll catch a cold!"
You'd sigh, bundle yourself up in your new Christmas sweater -- the embarrassing one with all the prancing elves -- then step outside and immediately get pelted with a barrage of well-deserved, icy snowballs.
"But you bought me this, Nana!"
All because of an old wives' tale. "Colds are viral," you screamed at your mother, "they have nothing to do with temperature!"
Then you got a timeout for telling your mom to "suck the science" again.
It turns out that the age-old myth that you can catch a cold by being cold has some truth to it; just don't tell your mother or she'll never let you hear the end of it.
Scientists conducted an experiment in which they tortured their victims by having them sit with their feet in ice-cold water for 20 minutes. After checking back a week later, they found that 29 percent of those subjects had come down with a cold.
Along with an all-encompassing hatred of scientists.
This might not sound significant, until you compare it with the control group: an equal number of study participants who were not forced to freeze their feet, and presumably just sat in the lobby reading a People magazine from 1989 until the time came to collect their fee. Of these, only 9 percent got sick. That's what scientists officially call "statistically fucking significant."
It turns out you and your mom were both sort of right: Colds are viral, but research shows that cold temperatures can substantially worsen any largely dormant viruses you might already have, to the point that it becomes noticeable and you're considered "sick."
See, you technically were sick all those times you called into work so you could binge-watch Netflix.
Right now, you're actually a lot sicker than you realize, but your immune system is doing a damn good job arresting the various viruses, and you're doing a really shitty job giving it credit. Among those who reported developing a cold in the days after the ice experiment, it's likely that most of them already harbored the cold virus, but their white blood cells were keeping that all in check -- until they worsened the situation by dunking their feet in a glacier.
Freezing temperatures constrict the blood vessels, cool the blood, and prevent the immune system from doing its job properly. As a result, the inhibited immune response allows the cold virus to get just enough of an upper hand to produce symptoms. The correct path of action is clear: Put on the sweater first, then tell your mother to suck the science.
Related: 5 Streams That Went Horribly Wrong
"Haters Gonna Hate"
"Haters gonna hate" probably originated from 3LW's song "Playas Gon' Play," but it quickly went culturally viral. Soon after, our society immortalized the saying the best way we know how -- by pasting it alongside pictures of cats on the Internet. These days, it's often used as shorthand for dismissing Internet trolls, by insisting that they would have hated you no matter what you did.
So it should be "fly into a spastic, frothing, death-threatening rage,"
but "hate" is a lot easier to type.
In a survey of Internet users, researchers asked a bunch of questions to discern the motivations of those who commented on the Internet (presumably beyond "I really want attention.") Then they further surveyed them to determine how closely their personalities aligned with what psychologists refer to as the "dark tetrad" -- Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism -- aka the four horsemen of the asspocalypse.
The study didn't measure the use of caps lock, presumably because they couldn't create a big enough chart.
The minority of responders who admitted to being trolls also racked up off-the-charts scores in all of the "human piece of shit" categories. In fact, psychologists have recently specified a new official personality category for these people. They call it "negative dispositional attitude." But we've known about it for a long time -- we call them "haters," and we recognize them from the fact that they're gonna hate.
Great: another special interest group.
In another survey, researchers asked people for their opinions on a bunch of different, unrelated topics, ranging from architecture to politics. They found that the participants with NDAs had opinions about any given topic that were dictated less by a reasoned analysis of the facts at hand and more by a general tendency to focus on only the negative aspects of everything.
Science has also determined that players are indeed going to play, though the likelihood of ballers to continue balling has yet to be conclusively determined.
"I Can Just Tell When Somebody Is Gay"
"You can tell just by looking at them."
Come on, maybe it's not PC -- but you know it's true. You look at some people, and you can just tell they're gay by the way they're actively boning only members of the same sex while shouting, "I am a homosexual!"
But of course we know "gaydar" is a complete myth, or else Grindr wouldn't be a thing.
Or it'd be a sandwich social app to find people that like meaty footlongs.
Researchers conducted an experiment in which they took a bunch of facial photographs of men and women, straight and gay, then removed any distinguishing characteristics such as hair and makeup, so that they all looked like the default setting in a video game's character creator. The scientists flashed these images in front of the participants for a fraction of a second -- just long enough to see the image, but not long enough to overthink it -- then asked whether the participants thought the subject of the photo was straight or gay.
Shockingly, people were able to correctly determine which gender the person in the photo preferred to rub their bits against around 60 percent of the time -- which doesn't sound that impressive, but it's better than random chance, even when adjusted for margin of error.
If you think this sounds like a game show premise, you're right.
The scientists hypothesized that the shape of our facial features and the spatial relationships between them contain clues about our sexual orientation, if not most of the time, then often enough to be statistically significant.
But that's not the only determining factor. Other studies have shown that gay men and women are also more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous, have denser fingerprints, a different tone of voice, and even distinct hair-whorl patterns. Also, gay men have, on average, bigger dicks. So if you want to fine-tune your gaydar, you can either listen attentively to him while meticulously checking his hands and hair, or just shove your hand down the front of his pants and skip the foreplay.
After which, you may want to check your whorl.
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 3
"All Those Other Races Look The Same"
You hear it the most from that racist uncle you keep forgetting to block on Facebook:
"all them asians look the same am i right LOLOBAMA"
He's clearly an ignorant asshole. An enlightened human being can instantly distinguish between any two members of any race, and back when Nelson Mandela died, the only reason you posted a picture of Morgan Freeman with the caption "What a great man RIP" was because those two were obviously twins separated at birth.
Misattributing all those Shawshank quotes, however, is entirely on you.
The "other-race effect" is a psychological theory which holds that people from any particular race have a more difficult time remembering details about the faces of people from another. Researchers from Northwestern University used EEG recordings to measure brain activity in participants who were shown a variety of different faces during an experiment. If a white participant was shown an image of a fellow whitey, their brain would record specific details about the face. But when shown an image of an Asian, their brain said, "That sure is an Asian!" and pretty much stopped there. Same for all races: They distinguished among their own much easier than others. It wasn't just self-reporting, either -- when shown faces from their own race, entirely different neurons began firing in the memory centers of the subject's brain.
Also known as the "Thanksgiving-Ruining Cortex."
One theory suggests that, because we tend to hang out mostly with members of our own race, our brains simply get less practice in differentiating features in other races. Another theory suggests that our brains are more inclined to recognize the differences in other people, rather than the similarities. For example, when a bunch of white people get together, they recognize each other through subtle differences in the shapes of their eyes, nose, and mouth. But as soon as you bring a dark-skinned man into the circle, all your brain thinks is, "There's a black dude. I better hide my wallet."
The first sentence is not your fault. That's biology. It's only the second sentence that makes you an asshole.
"The Way To A Man's Heart Is Through His Stomach"
"The best route to a man's heart is through his stomach."
Preferably via the mouth, as opposed to the alternate route into his digestive system.
They say that because they are idiots.
Everybody knows the best route to a man's heart is to hop straight onto the Penis Parkway.
Don't, uh, actually hop.
A survey of nearly 10,000 Australians found that most men report more pleasure from food than from physical contact. Sex actually came in fourth. But this study was conducted by the Magnum ice cream company -- certainly a pillar of the dessert community, but not generally a respected scientific institute. So perhaps you would be more swayed by the first time science decided to get to the bottom of the hunger/horniness matrix back in 1994, when Chicago neurologist Dr. Alan Hirsch strapped a bunch of blood pressure monitors to some male volunteers' genitals and subjected them to various smells in order to determine which scent turned dudes on the most.
So what scent makes men horniest? Perfume? Sweat? That fresh electronics smell when you first peel the sticker off a new gadget?
"You may want to leave for a bit after we get this set up; it may get weird."
Nope: cinnamon buns.
There you go, ladies. If you're having trouble in the bedroom, just try cosplaying as a sexy Pillsbury Doughboy. Marriage saved. We accept gratitude in the form of cash or those bitchin' little orange sweet roll things.
Federico loves writing about science and math. You can tell him how badly he screwed up this article by contacting him here and making fun of his username.
For more stuff that shouldn't seem true, check out 6 Insane Sex Myths (That Are Actually True) and 5 Conspiracy Theories You Won't Believe (Really Happened).
And to further expand your noggin, check out Cracked's De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn't Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew.