Frequently-Quoted Stats That Are Actually False

4 min read
Frequently Quoted Stats That Are Actually False

When you hear a seemingly amazing fact or statistic, you tend to repeat it. It sounds smart, and everyone wants to appear smart. But there’s a problem, especially with statistics: Many are nothing more than figments of someone’s imagination. But if they sound smart enough, they get repeated until they are accepted as truth. Then people like us have to come along and debunk them.

You Ingest About Eight Spiders a Year

You Ingest About Eight Spiders A Year

Approximately 47,482,209,872,483 internet chain mails have included this one. As you sleep, you open your mouth to breathe, and this is the ideal window of opportunity for spiders.

Why it’s false: Makes spiders seem pretty dumb, doesn’t it? Spiders are occasionally seen doing dumb things, but we can assume they have enough intelligence to know when they’re about to crawl through the mouth of another animal. The giant white teeth are probably enough to deter them, and wouldn’t the heavy draft and deafening snoring sound be some sort of giveaway?

Who’s responsible? In 1993, online urban legends were already fooling people. So Lisa Holst, a columnist for PC Professional, wanted to show that a person could make up anything on the internet and everyone else would believe it. She made up a set of “facts,” including the spider myth, and sent them out in emails. Then people who forwarded chain mail just “happened” to forget to include the fact that they were completely fake.

Who fell for it? At least a handful of internet heroes, likely because they read it once. There’s even one entomologist from who quoted Holst’s lie. The UK’s Daily Mirror wrote that “the average person will swallow anything from eight to 20 spiders before they die” in 2006.  Incredibly The Mirror made it even worse by writing “A spider may drink from your eye at least THREE times over your lifetime. Experts believe they are attracted by the vibrations of snoring and the smell of undigested food – so floss your teeth before bed.” Maybe this is how to get the UK to worry about dental hygiene?

You Only Use 10% of Your Brain

You Only Use 10 Percent Of Your Brain

“People only use 10% of their brains! Just think what they would be capable of if they tapped into the rest!” You have heard that from family, your teachers, and probably even your textbooks. This idea is probably appealing to teachers whose students complain that they can’t do ONE MORE math problem. “You’re only using 10% of your brain, so you could do ten more if you wanted.” The implication was that we could set fire to the school with the power of our minds if we so chose.

Why it’s false: How fast are you reading this? Let’s imagine you are only using 10% of your noodle. Now, read it 10x faster. Is it hard? It’s not like you can just will the other 90% of your brain to do what you want. Each part of the brain is specialized, so it’s impossible to use it all at once. And it wouldn’t make you more intelligent. You aren’t a better writer if you use every key on your keyboard in every paragraph.

Right now you are not using the part of your brain to read as you’ll be using Friday night when you get drunk and fight a hobo.

Who’s responsible? There is debate on who brought this bogus statistic into the realm of the interweb. Over the past few hundred years, neurologists figured out that a human can survive when parts of the brain are removed. Someone misinterpreted this to mean that the brain uses little of its potential, and the 10% statistic began. People usually remember facts depending on how interesting they are not whether or not they’re true.

Who fell for it? A quick search on Google can give the answer to anything. Psychology Today published an article in 2006 on how to access the lazy 90% of your grey matter. They suggest replenishing the brain with nutrients.

Sex Pops into Mens’ Heads Every Seven Seconds

Sex Pops Into Mens' Heads Every Seven Seconds

Clearly, the only thing men do all day is think about having sex. So, on average, men think about sex every seven seconds, right?

Why it’s false: Let’s suppose that you are a human male. How many times have you thought about sex since you began reading this article? Probably several, but that’s because you just read the word “sex” several times. Did you think about spiders when you read the spider-eating segment earlier? According to some experts, 30% of men don’t think about sex during the day. Some variants of this myth range from three to twenty seconds, but none of them are based on any actual research. It’s hard to imagine how scientists would design an experiment to even come up with such a statistic.

Who’s responsible? We can’t pin it on a single culprit. Most likely, a group of wives was sitting at a table drinking tea or coffee, talking about their horrible husbands. It is always about sex, sex, sex with these monsters. And then, one of them pulls a number out of her head. “Men think about sex every seven seconds. Did you know that?” Everyone has a good laugh, then they all run off to do womanly things, like all going to the bathroom in a flock.

Who fell for it? Around 50% of people according to an online survey. Many sites are still including it among their “interesting facts” about sex, like this one.

One would think that common sense would have squashed this long ago. Obviously there are times when a guy isn’t thinking about sex, such as while spending 45 infuriating minutes on the phone with your service provider. To reach that average, he would have to think about sex every two seconds after the infuriating call.