Talk:List of common misconceptions

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Former FLCList of common misconceptions is a former featured list candidate. Please view the link under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. Once the objections have been addressed you may resubmit the article for featured list status.
Article milestones
October 29, 2006Articles for deletionNo consensus
March 24, 2009Articles for deletionKept
February 8, 2011Articles for deletionNo consensus
April 25, 2011Featured list candidateNot promoted
September 26, 2018Articles for deletionKept
Current status: Former featured list candidate
High traffic

List of common misconceptions has been linked from multiple high-traffic websites.

4 January 2011 xkcd Link See visitor traffic
12 January 2011 Boing Boing Link See visitor traffic
3 February 2011 i am bored Link See visitor traffic

edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for List of common misconceptions:

Here are some tasks awaiting attention:
  • '' : Remove instances of "misconception" and other such phrasing.


Should there be a list of common misconceptions about Wikipedia? (Perhaps not in the article space, but in Wikipedia space?) Here's one example: "Many people refer to IP editing as "anonymous editing." But in reality, IP editing is less anonymous than registering a username." Benjamin (talk) 06:05, 15 October 2018 (UTC)

In a List? No (so far), we as editors do not find examples and analyze them. In an essay? Yeah sure. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 13:29, 15 October 2018 (UTC)
Yes, the no original research policy only applies to the article namespace. WP:What Wikipedia is not is in many ways such a list. The Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid series exists primarily to answer frequent misconceptions about how Wikipedia works. Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch is one of many pages that addresses common mistakes or misconceptions about writing. Essays like Wikipedia:Wikipedia is anonymous or WP:Anonymity deal with the IP misconceptions. There's no reason not to make a page or navbox that groups these under the related topic of misconceptions about Wikipedia.

To exist in the article namespace, it would all need to be sourced to non-Wikipedia sources. --Dennis Bratland (talk) 02:12, 18 October 2018 (UTC)

I think it might be good to have a listing of misconception about Wikipedia on a page that is more geared toward the general public, rather than editors, because they're the ones who would be more likely to hold the misconceptions in the first place. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if something like this already exists somewhere, perhaps just saying something like that the Foundation doesn't exert editorial oversight over the content of articles. Benjamin (talk) 15:59, 10 November 2018 (UTC)

Okay, so it seems like there might very well be some misconceptions about Wikipedia that are documented in RS, and therefore worthy of the mainspace, but also some that would only be worthy of the WP space. But on the other hand, wouldn't it make sense to gather them all together?

Example: Wikipedia administrators: "In his book Wikipedia – The Missing Manual, John Broughton states that while many people think of administrators on Wikipedia as judges, that is not the purpose of the role.[9] Instead, he says, admins usually "delete pages" and "protect pages involved in edit wars".[9]"

Benjamin (talk) 07:38, 14 November 2018 (UTC)

Here's another: Wikipedia:Wikipedia_as_a_court_source: "* Joseph Reagle: Reference works and judicial notice (, 15 February 2008) "The import of the use of reference works in court cases is frequently misunderstood, and in this case Wikipedia is no different. ...""

Benjamin (talk) 06:28, 16 November 2018 (UTC)

Here's some more:

Benjamin (talk) 01:49, 6 December 2018 (UTC)

Thoughts? Benjamin (talk) 13:09, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

Perhaps a section here with all the RS sourced Wikipedia misconceptions, but with a link to a full list in project space? Benjamin (talk) 00:02, 15 December 2018 (UTC)

Benjamin (talk) 22:45, 2 January 2019 (UTC)

"On Wikipedia, truth trumps self-expression."

Perhaps a common misconception.


Benjamin (talk) 09:54, 16 January 2019 (UTC)

That requires an uncharitable reading of what sense Harrison means when he says "truth". Based on the WaPo piece, and his other writings, he's not unfamiliar with the inner workings of Wikipedia. I doubt he misunderstands what we mean by verifibility, not truth. But 'verifiability' is Wikipedia jargon and it's unlikely a broad audience would understand it. Even if Harrision had used that word in his article, I would expect the newspaper editor would change it to 'truth' so as not to alienate readers.

You are right, though, that the general public probably doesn't understand the distinction -- the reason the Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth policy exists is that it is a counterproductive and even surprising concept. It is likely one of the most misunderstood things about Wikipedia. As I said above, it's a valid addition here if we can cite external sources, which is entirely possible. --Dennis Bratland (talk) 20:40, 16 January 2019 (UTC)

"It's a "living" resource, in the sense that any piece of content is available to be edited by anyone with expertise in that particular topic."

You don't need experience to edit, and in fact, having expertise can make it easier to run afoul of WP:OR or WP:SYNTH. Benjamin (talk) 00:39, 20 January 2019 (UTC)

"By contrast, Wikimedia is not well understood and is often confused with Wikipedia. In this recent study, respondents reported that they had “never heard of [Wikimedia] before.” When asked to guess what it might be, many responded with Wikipedia."

Similarly, I think most people think that they're donating to Wikipedia, when they're really donating to Wikimedia.

Benjamin (talk) 10:09, 8 February 2019 (UTC)

"The aim is not to write articles from a single objective point of view--this is a common misunderstanding of the policy--but rather, to fairly and sympathetically present all views on an issue."[1]

Benjamin (talk) 13:39, 11 February 2019 (UTC)

There seems to be some common misconceptions about Wikimedia.

It seems like people 1) think WMF can barely afford the servers, and 2) want their donations to go to pay the editors.

Benjamin (talk) 08:25, 24 February 2019 (UTC)

"It is a common perception - based on our claim of being the encyclopedia anyone can edit - that Wikipedia welcomes all editors. There is also a misconception that because maintaining a neutral point of view is one of Wikipedia's five fundamental principles, administrators would be acting contrary to this if they blocked a racist upon learning of their public self-identification."

Benjamin (talk) 04:18, 12 March 2019 (UTC)

Medical error[edit]

Benjamin (talk) 21:41, 16 February 2019 (UTC)

Mars rover Curiosity[edit]

Does not fulfill #3 "The common misconception is mentioned in its topic article with sources." The "misconception" is not covered there. Marked with "dubious" so this can be corrected (think a week or two added and no challenge or removal should do it). Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 17:30, 20 February 2019 (UTC)

Per WP:FIXTHEPROBLEM, why don't you go ahead and add it there? Benjamin (talk) 17:51, 20 February 2019 (UTC)
Part of that is "tagging it as necessary". Done. WP:ONUS is part of that policy meaning it may or may not be worthy of inclusion. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 19:57, 20 February 2019 (UTC)
Still no evidence that this is a common misconception, nor any evidence that it is even common knowledge that it played "happy birthday" once. A few mistaken news articles and the four tweets cited by CNET does not a common misconception make. --Ahecht (TALK
) 15:05, 8 March 2019 (UTC)


>The term copper was the original, unshortened word, originally used in Britain to mean "someone who captures". In British English, the term cop is recorded (Shorter Oxford Dictionary) in the sense of 'to capture' from 1704, derived from the Latin capere via the Old French caper.[10] There is a common but mistaken belief that it refers to the police uniform's buttons or badge being made of copper.[11]

Benjamin (talk) 11:28, 27 February 2019 (UTC)

Not supported by source. Does not say anything about this being "common" and source list 5 "spoof etymologies": copper buttons, copper stars, constable on patrol, constabulary of police, chief of police. Went ahead and fixed the article. Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 23:00, 27 February 2019 (UTC)
I like the changes you made on the other article, they are a better illustration of the source I think. I'm not quite sure that the source doesn't call this a widespread belief though. In the second paragraph of the text it clearly notes that this was widespread in the popular mind, which is why it was being referenced in journalism at the end of the 19th Century. Thoughts? Squatch347 (talk) 15:13, 28 February 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, expansion/cleanup of Wikipedia goes both ways, as in "that's interesting - it needs to be in Wikipedia", or "well that's total bullshit, time to fix that". As for citation of an incident in 1864 making something "common"? Doesn't say that, just someone somewhere saw people flashing a copper coin at cops. The one I always heard was cop = "constable on patrol". Pre Wikipedia mirror search doesn't light on any specific term, best we can say is there are several spoof origins for cop. Mistaken belief would be all of them, as in "COP does not stand for x, y, and z" Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 18:58, 28 February 2019 (UTC)

Common Myths About Alcohol[edit]

[1] Benjamin (talk) 02:46, 28 February 2019 (UTC)


  • In people with eczema, bathing does not dry the skin and may in fact be beneficial.[2][3]

This was apparently removed without explanation. Benjamin (talk) 01:56, 1 March 2019 (UTC)

Nevermind, it was restored. Benjamin (talk) 03:45, 1 March 2019 (UTC)


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Daily Skin Care Essential to Control Atopic Dermatitis". American Academy of Dermatology. Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  3. ^ McAleer, MA; Flohr, C; Irvine, AD (Jul 23, 2012). "Management of difficult and severe eczema in childhood". British Medical Journal. 345: e4770. doi:10.1136/bmj.e4770. hdl:2262/75991. PMID 22826585.

First Amendment[edit]

Benjamin (talk) 22:47, 2 March 2019 (UTC)

Nevermind, it was added back. Benjamin (talk) 02:52, 3 March 2019 (UTC)


  1. ^ Willingham, AJ (6 September 2018). "The First Amendment doesn't guarantee you the rights you think it does". CNN. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  2. ^ McGregor, Jena (8 August 2017). "The Google memo is a reminder that we generally don't have free speech at work". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  3. ^ Dunn, Christopher. "Column: Applying the Constitution to Private Actors (New York Law Journal)". New York Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  4. ^ Berman-Gorvine, Martin (19 May 2014). "Employer Ability to Silence Employee Speech Narrowing in Private Sector, Attorneys Say". Bloomberg BNA. Retrieved 1 March 2019.

Life Expectancy Misconceptions[edit]

I deleted this misconception because it was confused and did not appear to belong in this article. My edit was immediately reversed, so I guess I need to explain my suggestion that this topic be removed from this article. Currently this article acknowledges that life expectancy has steadily increased throughout history (see:life expectancy#Variation over time ), but claims that "one should not infer that people usually died around the age of 30" when in fact a life expectancy of 30 literally means that the average age a person lived to was 30 years old. The fact that many, and in some cultures, most people died before adulthood, does not change this fact, unless someone is insinuating that children are not people. Further, none of this has anything to do with the Wanjek source which says, "Yet, as far as we have come, has the human race increased its life span? Not at all. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about old age; we are not living any longer," because the maximum human life span is still approximately 120 years- a fact which has nothing whatsoever to do with this topic. A google search brought up many sources sloppily debunking the claim that life expectancy from birth and life expectancy from adulthood are the same thing, but no sources actually making that claim. No doubt, there is some confusion, in that anyone who makes it to adulthood will always be expected to live beyond the average life expectancy age, but frankly this article and many other sources incorrectly claim that the average life expectancy from adulthood has not significantly decreased- which is probably a more common myth than the misconception that life expectancy is the same thing as life expectancy from adulthood... I strongly recommend removing this myth, and better clarifying life expectancy#Life expectancy vs. life span where my other edits were also reversed on accusations of attempting to "obscure" by editing incorrect information in both articles simultaneously. Also, I have twice removed and will continue to remove the objectively false claim that the life expectancy of an aristocrat in Medieval England was the average life expectancy of that time. Awhodothey (talk) 07:10, 3 March 2019 (UTC)

We have a reliable source that tells us in no uncertain terms it is a widespread misconception. Your argument that the reliable source is in error consists entirely of your own inability to find additional sources with Google. Maybe not everything under the sun can be found in 0.3 seconds with Google. The limitations of your own ability to search do not constitute actual evidence of anything. A credible argument that Christopher Wanjek is grievously in error would be to cite other reliable sources that say Wanjek is in error. Find sources that say that in fact the general public has a good grasp of the difference between average life expectancy of a population, and the expected age when adults die of natural causes. Don't pick apart data and draw your own conclusions. We don't care about whatever conclusions you reach. That's original research. We care about sources.

Please don't go on boring us with your arguments. Enlighten us with your sources. --Dennis Bratland (talk) 07:19, 3 March 2019 (UTC)

As an interesting aside, I don't think I've ever seen a source saying that something is not a misconception. It seems like an odd thing to say, doesn't it? Benjamin (talk) 07:29, 3 March 2019 (UTC)
With all due respect Dennis, which frankly i don't think you have extended to me, I don't believe you understand the Wanjek quote you are using. Wanjek claimed that a belief in increasing maximum life spans is a widespread misconception. I have no idea what his source for that claim is, but it is not at all relevant to this question. Ironically, his proceeding explanation of adult life expectancy does seem to intentionally conflate life span with with life expectancy from adulthood, but per the rules of this page, any claim of a misconception should start with direct sources of that misconception, not a Tonight Show writer's claim that such a misconception is rampant. Awhodothey (talk) 07:44, 3 March 2019 (UTC)
What you disparage as a "tonight show writer" is what Wikipedia calls a tertiary source. While primary sources are sometimes OK, and secondary sources do well, tertiary sources are our actual role models. We are writing an encyclopedia, a tertiary source, and a good tertiary source is exactly what we seek to emulate. Plenty of other sources support the widely recognized misconception that a 35 year old in the Middle Ages was not "old"; even if they were beyond the average life expectancy. Life expectancy and longevity are two different things. [2][3][4][5].

If you think the wording is imprecise or doesn't reflect the sources, fine. Please, fix it. But nuking entries entirely without giving any evidence that there's really a problem is not helping. Many sources agree there is a common misconception about medieval longevity. No sources contradict this. --Dennis Bratland (talk) 08:02, 3 March 2019 (UTC)

I agree this is a misconception. An average lifespan is not the lifespan that most people have.--Jack Upland (talk) 10:22, 3 March 2019 (UTC)
Well, as it stands, this entry does not fulfill the minimum inclusion criteria of this list. I think the misconception is best summarized as a confusion between 'life expectancy from birth' and 'life expectancy from adulthood.' But, an average lifespan is literally the lifespan that most people can expect to live, and the fact that falsely stating otherwise, because we don't think it sounds right, is not understood within this talk page is evidence that current attempts to correct the misconception are themselves creating misconceptions.[6] I will do my best to make the entry factual, but the main problem with this entry is that most of sources debunking the myth are themselves riddled with errors, counterfactually suggesting that life expectancy from adulthood has not significantly decreased, hence this entry's contradiction with life expectancy. If anyone thinks this misconception is better described as the misconception that "a 35 year old in the Middle Ages was not 'old,'" then by all means add that, but please do not revert my edits to false claims which are not even supported by their sources. Awhodothey (talk) 07:59, 4 March 2019 (UTC)
"An average lifespan is literally the lifespan that most people can expect to live". That is simply not true. If you had three people, one dying age 2, one dying age 21, one dying age 91, the average lifespan would be 38. None of those people died age 38. If that sample was representative of your society, you shouldn't expect to live to 38. And that sample is very roughly similar to a medieval society: there were a lot of deaths in childhood. The figure 38 is purely a mathematical result, with no practical basis.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:44, 4 March 2019 (UTC)
Ok, you're just saying that an average is not a median, and the expectation to live to 38 is purely a statistical probability that balances the tails of a distribution, but the average is also a completely true fact that more precisely describes lifespans than a median. And that highlights a major problem with this entry: at that rate, this misconception is entirely about understanding the definition of an average and has nothing to do with mortality, per se. Perhaps it better fits under a mathematics or statistics category? The current medieval history category placement is quite arbitrary, as it has nothing to do with the middle ages particularly. Awhodothey (talk) 09:47, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

The current phrasing seems a bit wordy and not particularly easy to understand. Benjamin (talk) 10:25, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Agreed on the current language. We are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Our role in building an encyclopedia is not to be a text book and develop in depth information of subtle topics. The previous language is far more clear and retains sufficient accuracy for what we are aiming for. Squatch347 (talk) 11:53, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Got to agree with Awhodothey that this is a shit entry. It starts out weaselly and it in no way follows the text at the linked article Life expectancy. Nothing there about this being a Middle Ages and Renaissance thing and the misconception stated there is Its a misconception that the human race has increased its life span. If that is a true statement (this is a case of delete if it isn't) then it should be reworded to cover the misconception and moved off to "Human body and health". Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 16:53, 4 March 2019 (UTC)

Suggestions for items[edit]

What about Van der Waals forces and gecko adhesion? (talk) 07:33, 3 March 2019 (UTC)

That's an interesting topic, but IMO, unless the science textbooks are really falling behind on incorporating new scientific consensus, most slightly outdated scientific theories probably don't belong here.Awhodothey (talk) 08:01, 3 March 2019 (UTC)


Could we perhaps move all the nifty little boxes at the top to a subpage?

They make the page load noticeably slower on older browsers.

Is it really necessary to have the to do lists of all those wikiprojects?

Benjamin (talk) 01:50, 6 March 2019 (UTC)

Can you be more specific about what age of browser breaks with this page? Have you checked this on multiple platforms? Also, if you replace some of these banners one by one, does the problem go away? It could be one of them has a bug.

Wikipedia:Talk page layout suggests "less is more" and to avoid any headers that aren't actually necessary, but no suggestion that they be limited due to browser problems. I'd probably go over to Wikipedia talk:Talk page guidelines or Wikipedia talk:Talk page layout and see if others think we should have some kind of guideline for how many banners is too many. I odn't know if a featured article's talk page is also a featured talk page, but a lot of them have a comparably large number of banners. Like Talk:L. Ron Hubbard or Talk:Neil Armstrong or Talk:John Calvin. --Dennis Bratland (talk) 03:35, 6 March 2019 (UTC)

It's not broken, just a little slow. Benjamin (talk) 08:17, 6 March 2019 (UTC)


The entry on crime should mention and differentiate between crime, violent crime, and gun crime. Benjamin (talk) 23:23, 7 March 2019 (UTC)

Possible confusion with History of masturbation page[edit]

I don't want to edit anything but I did want to mention that I found it confusing when I read to different passages from the "History of masturbation" page & the "List of common misconceptions" page.

On the "History of masturbation" page there is the following passage: "In 1905, Sigmund Freud addressed masturbation in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and associated it with addictive substances. He described the masturbation of infants at the period when the infant is nursing, at four years of age, and at puberty.

At the same time, the supposed medical condition of hysteria—from the Greek hystera or uterus—was being treated by what would now be described as medically administered or medically prescribed masturbation for women. Techniques included use of the earliest vibrators and rubbing the genitals with placebo creams.[35]"

And on the "List of common misconceptions" page there is the following passage: "Despite being referenced commonly in culture[183][184] and society at large,[185][186][187] the idea that Victorian Era doctors invented the vibrator to cure female 'hysteria' via triggering orgasm is a product of a single work[188] rejected by most historians.[183][187][189]"

It seems like these pretty much contradict each other. The "History of masturbation" page says the earliest vibrators were being used for the treatment of hysteria around 1905 & the "List of common misconceptions" page says the vibrator was not invented by Victorian Era doctors to cure female 'hysteria'. If both of these statements are considered true, then some additional clarification (at least on the "List of common misconceptions" page) is necessary to explain how. Perhaps, 1905 is considered AFTER the Victorian Era but it is so close as to make the common misconception ONLY about the date which should be explained. I don't really know how both could be true without a lot more research for which others are probably better suited. Of course, if one of them is false, then that should be fixed asap since these are both currently presented as true on wikipedia.

I hope someone more knowledgeable and diligent can make the appropriate adjustments but I just wanted to point out that this is confusing if not outright incorrect.

Thanks, (talk) 03:41, 8 March 2019 (UTC)rgs

Hopefully we can find a Wikipedia editor who is an expert on masturbation.--Jack Upland (talk) 07:12, 8 March 2019 (UTC)



Benjamin (talk) 06:31, 9 March 2019 (UTC)

I'm a bit skeptical of the source being reliable. Squatch347 (talk) 10:27, 12 March 2019 (UTC)

Agree with Squatch. Their test used an exceptionally small amount of rice, a sponge is not a remotely comparable source of moisture, they compared it to things like opening your phone to air dry (when the whole point of using rice is to avoid opening your phone), they merely recommend using instant rice, and they concluded that even a really small amount of regular rice did indeed work. Even if that article is something more than click bait, the fact that rice does work makes it not a myth. Awhodothey (talk) 00:15, 15 March 2019 (UTC)

Just to clarify my point a little bit Awhodothey, we are not evaluating their methods. We don't conduct evaluation or original research here on Wikipedia. I am simply noting that the source itself is not a well regarded one. Analysis of their methods is outside our purview. Squatch347 (talk) 13:24, 15 March 2019 (UTC)
Sure, my last sentence was all that really needed to be said. The source does not even claim that rice absorbing moisture, when you don't want to open up a phone, is a myth. Awhodothey (talk) 16:18, 15 March 2019 (UTC)

Influenza vaccines[edit]

"It’s a common misconception that influenza vaccines could be produced more quickly if grown in cell cultures compared to using embryonated chicken eggs. In fact, growing the vaccine viruses in cell cultures would take about the same amount of time. However, cell cultures do not have the same potential availability issues as chicken eggs." [8]

Benjamin (talk) 01:37, 20 March 2019 (UTC)


Automation does not cause long term structural unemployment.

This is another one of those issues that is controversial to politicians, but not to economists.

Benjamin (talk) 01:48, 20 March 2019 (UTC)


It was said earlier that original research is bad because it's impractical to evaluate, but I think it might be practical in situations like this. Say there's a bunch of media reports and social media posts that say "X is true.", but the actual experts in the field say "X is false.", then I think it would be okay to say that X is a misconception, even if no sources explicitly state that. Benjamin (talk) 03:53, 21 March 2019 (UTC)

Gas prices[edit]


"Here is a one-item test to see whether you are guilty of cloudy thinking about gas prices: Do you believe that they are something a president can control? Many Americans believe that the answer is yes, but any respectable economist will tell you that the answer is no." Benjamin (talk) 06:38, 21 March 2019 (UTC)