The Origin of Myths Where do misunderstandings and false beliefs come from? Consultation Center (2023)

mitoare referred to in the context of this article as misinformation, misunderstandings, false beliefs or misstatements. Myths can be found in almost every field. Sometimes myths can be relatively harmless, while other times they lead to poor decisions and negative consequences. Myths contribute to epistemic irrationality: held beliefs that are not supported by evidence and sometimes directly opposed to evidence. Epistemic irrationality can lead to adverse reactions, including using ineffective medical treatments because alternative causes are not considered, making poor financial decisions due to overconfidence, misjudging the environmental risks of being alive, acquiring mindware tainted by ponzi schemes and pyramid, the bad influence of jury decisions by distorting probabilities, setting inappropriate goals, damage to intellectual values, etc. (Stanovich et al. 2016).

Social and cognitive scientists who study myths often examine their sources and how individual characteristics influence the formation, spread, and belief in myths. Understanding these variables is important for studying myths. Some of the main sources of myths are word of mouth, assumptions that correlation means causation, and the need for simple solutions.

Myths are passed down from generation to generation, often through verbal communication or word of mouth. "They say" and "I've always heard" are common phrases. no matter whoEllaare or whether the statement contains an element of truth; if they "say it often enough" it is likely to be accepted as true by some. Research shows that an opinion expressed ten times by the same person can be as credible as an opinion expressed once by ten different people (Weaver et al. 2007). Statements heard over and over often lead to greater credibility, regardless of their truth value.

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Associated or correlated events (occurring simultaneously) do not necessarily indicate a causal relationship. There are two main problems when trying to identify a cause and effect relationship from a simple correlation. The first isdirectional problem: Before concluding that a correlation between variables A and B is due to changes in Acausedchanges in B, it is important to realize that the direction of causality can be reversed, that is, from B to A. The second is theThird variable problem: Correlation in variables can occur because both variables are related to a third variable. This third variable may actually be the cause of the association. When the third variable is controlled for, the relationship between the two originally correlated variables is no longer significant.

Humans are cognitive misers; We tend to get caught up in thoughts that don't require a lot of energy or analytical thinking. Sometimes this is beneficial, but it often leads to irrational thinking and behavior. This mental task plays a very important role in decision making. In general, information that is easy to process is preferred. This explains in part the popularity of mainstream magazines written at the elementary school level. Although they are often unreliable sources of information, they are often referred to as credible sources. These are just a few sources of myths; A complete description would be beyond the scope of this article. recommend reading the book50 Great Myths of Pop Psychologyby Scott Lilienfeld and colleagues (2010). The section on common mythical sources provides a broad overview of common mythical sources. The information is relevant to myths in a variety of fields.

In many cases, the formulation and propagation of myths is influenced by personal interests, including economic benefits, the attempt to improve the intellectual status of one or another personal benefit. In addition to studying the sources and characteristics of those who participate in the propagation of myths, it is also important to ask what it is about myths – or what general characteristics of myths are – that contribute to their tendency to survive and spread. Why are some myths more common than others?

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memetic science

It is important to understand the meme concept when considering the survival value and dissemination of myths. Richard Dawkins coined the termmemesin his popular 1976 bookthe selfish gene. A meme is conceptualized as a unit of cultural information transmitted through non-genetic processes (not directly related to genetics). Dawkins described the meme as having gene-like properties. He called it a new type of replicator, a second replicator next to the gene. “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of ​​a unit of cultural transmission or transmitted to an imitation unit. "Mimeme" comes from a proper Greek root, but I want a monosyllabic syllable that sounds a bit like "gen"... If it's any consolation, it could be associated with "memory" or the French wordmemes. It must be pronounced so that it rhymes.crema(Dawkins 1976).

An important finding from memetic studies is that beliefs and ideas can spread without necessarily being true or benefiting the person who holds them (Stanovich 2004). Memes (like genes) act in their own interests. Some beliefs are propagated due to properties of the beliefs themselves. This is a key point of interest when trying to understand myths and leads to the realization that the study of myths is often a complex situation. High survivability myths have self-perpetuating properties that make them prone to spreading. There are several subcategories of meme survival strategies, including "conversion strategies, preservation strategies, persuasion strategies, aversive strategies, hitchhiking strategies, and imitation strategies" (Stanovich 2004). A cultural trait can evolve the way it does because its evolutionary process is uniquely beneficial to itself (Dawkins 1976). In that sense, the trait need not be beneficial to the person carrying it.

Rational thinking and evaluation of myths.

A thorough study of myths must include an examination of the social and cognitive characteristics of those who create, construct, and propagate myths, and must include a study of the common characteristics of myths. Memetic science sheds light on cultural information units and examines what it is about these information units that allows them to survive.

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Rational thinking is essential as a means of evaluating myths, and epistemic rationality requires that beliefs be evidence-based. A thorough analytical cognitive process is required in evaluating claims, particularly in evaluating claims constructed in such a way as to withstand challenge or criticism. Why should this statement or belief not be criticized? What makes it different from other claims? Asking for evidence is useful for identifying junk memes (memes that serve their own purposes but don't benefit us, they are vehicles/transporters).

We need the right mindware to determine whether memes are good or bad for us. We need scientific knowledge to optimize our attempts to debunk myths (Hale 2020). The most important rule for ranking memes is to avoid accepting memes that defy ranking; this characteristic is important because parasitic memes (junk memes) tend to increase their chances of survival by finding tricks that allow them to escape evaluation (Stanovich 2004). The science of memetics, along with social and cognitive psychology, is consistent with a scientific-materialist worldview. Appropriate use of these domains can help to avoid belief in myths and combat the spread of myths.


Dawkins, R. 1976.the selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Hale, J. 2020. Scientific Mindware. Consultation Center. Retrieved on September 22, 2020 from

Lilienfeld et al. 201050 Great Myths of Pop Psychology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Stanovich, K. 2004.The Robot Rebellion: Making Sense of the Age of Darwin. Chicago e Londres: The University of Chicago Press.


Stanovich, K., et al. 2016.The rationality quotient: towards a test of rational thinking. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Weber, K., et al. 2007. Inferring the popularity of an opinion from its familiarity: A repetitive voice can sound like a chorus.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology92: 821–833.


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