From the ancient Greek thinker Democritus who reportedly said, "We know nothing really; for truth lies deep down," to the recent problem-solving advice from Entrepreneur, "Assume Everything Is Wrong," we have to constantly be reminded to be skeptical. And that the one thing we do know is that we don't always know what we think we know.
As neophyte reporters are often told: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."
And so occasionally we come across contrary-to-popular-belief conversations that help recalibrate our thinking. Here is a trio of recent such reports:
1) Cold, rainy days do not make your back ache. Though dismal days seem to make your bones ache, Australian researchers — who studied more than 900 patients with sudden and acute back pain — have determined that weather has no bearing on back pain. In fact, the report published recently in Arthritis Care & Research states that "temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation showed no association with onset of back pain." So may the wind always be at your back — no, actually, according to the report, a swifter wind can potentially increase back pain.
2) Young Americans are postponing sexual engagement. While many people believe that youthful American teenagers are engaging in sexual activity at an evermore earlier age, the trend: According to a May 2014 report from the Guttmacher Institute — a nonprofit focusing on human sexuality — more young people are postponing sexual initiation these days. "In 2006-2008," the institute, citing data from Pediatrics, found, that "some 11% of never-married females aged 15–19 and 14% of never-married males in that age-group had had sex before age 15, compared with 19% and 21%, respectively, in 1995."
3) Rich people do not always lean a certain way politically. "Contrary to popular belief," Avi Tuschman, author of Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us, observes in BloombergBusinessweek, "paying taxes, accumulating wealth, and being in the 1 percent or the 99 percent are extremely poor predictors of left-right political orientation. According to American National Election Studies, an academically run survey project, the correlation between family income and party identification for U.S. voters in the 2012 presidential election was a mere 0.13. This weak statistical relationship is typical of past elections."
Do you know other examples of misconceptions, misperceptions or just plain wrongheadedness — that can be fixed by facts? Please send them to email@example.com.
The Protojournalist: An experimental storytelling project for the LURVers — Listeners, Users, Readers, Viewers — of NPR. @NPRtpj