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Author Topic: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths  (Read 5108 times)

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Offline SureTopic starter

Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« on: April 24, 2011, 02:04:16 AM »
This is a thread for Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths, because I'm always curious about these things. Citations preferred.

To start with:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_misconception

Also, the popular story of Kitty Genovese is a myth. From Wikipedia:
Quote
None of the witnesses observed the attacks in their entirety. Because of the layout of the complex and the fact that the attacks took place in different locations, no witness saw the entire sequence of events. Most only heard portions of the incident without realizing its seriousness, a few saw only small portions of the initial assault, and no witnesses directly saw the final attack and rape in an exterior hallway, which resulted in Genovese's death. Additionally, after the initial attack punctured her lungs (leading to her eventual death from asphyxiation), it is unlikely that she was able to scream at any volume.
Emphasis mine.


Offline Sabby

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2011, 04:01:13 AM »
I have no idea what this Kitty thing is about...

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2011, 05:27:23 AM »
I believe he is referring to a case that later became a court presecedent regarding bystanders.  That presecedent would mean that bystanders are responsible for notifying police if they are able to.  Or at least something along those lines.  The woman was supposively killed in her apartment with several of her neighbors having heard her screams for help.  Nobody called the police to assist her.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2011, 12:53:27 PM »
The 'Wikipedia' link in Sure's post goes straight to the article on Kitty.

The phenomenon that it usually gets trotted out to represent is 'diffusion of responsibility' - where an onlooker rationalizes their own inaction with the idea that there are so many other people looking on that 'surely someone else will/has already taken action'.  Unfortunately, all those other onlookers could be thinking the same thing.  The reason that it doesn't apply in Kitty's case is that the other onlookers weren't aware of each other, so there was no chance to assume that there was anyone else to take action.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2011, 07:33:03 PM »
The 'Wikipedia' link in Sure's post goes straight to the article on Kitty.

The phenomenon that it usually gets trotted out to represent is 'diffusion of responsibility' - where an onlooker rationalizes their own inaction with the idea that there are so many other people looking on that 'surely someone else will/has already taken action'.  Unfortunately, all those other onlookers could be thinking the same thing.  The reason that it doesn't apply in Kitty's case is that the other onlookers weren't aware of each other, so there was no chance to assume that there was anyone else to take action.

From the wiki article on bystander effect:
Quote
According to an article published in American Psychologist in 2007, the original story of Kitty Genovese's murder was exaggerated by the media. Specifically, there were not 38 eyewitnesses, the police were contacted at least once during the attack, and many of the bystanders who overheard the attack could not actually see the event. [...] Stanley Milgram hypothesized that the bystanders′ callous behavior was caused by the strategies they had adopted in daily life to cope with information overload. This idea has been supported to varying degrees by empirical research.

They actually have a good amount of research now into selective inattention (as, for example, addressed in the recent book The Invisible Gorilla and its accompanying videos) and how the brain works. The newspaper exaggerated the amount to which the attack was witnessed - it wasn't 38 people standing blithely by their window while a woman screamed desperately and repeatedly for help - but it was still heard and reacted to by many people. I think it's also debated as to whether the police should be considered as having been affected by 'Genovese syndrome', but it's also notable that it was reported to the police as an event that had already happened rather than an attack in progress. The witnesses just thought it was over with. It didn't help that they lived by a rowdy bar and it was 3AM.

The wiki article is kind enough to name a few subsequent incidences of Genovese syndrome, wherein the bystander effect is much more apparent. It's ironic that the case for which the syndrome is named is one of the more nuanced cases of the effect itself.

Also, more common misperceptions are included in the book I mentioned above, The Invisible Gorilla. They include things such as: thinking we remember things better if they are attached to heavy emotion, and the myth of competency wherein the less we know about a subject, the more we think we know.

So if you catch someone who acts like they know everything there is to know about a subject or subjects, then they probably are in actuality a complete amateur in the field. The more competent you become in something, the more you realize you have left to learn and the more it tends to humble you about your own knowledge. (Which makes House about the most oppositest thing from a good doctor, ever.)

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2011, 08:49:57 PM »
Also, more common misperceptions are included in the book I mentioned above, The Invisible Gorilla. They include things such as: thinking we remember things better if they are attached to heavy emotion, and the myth of competency wherein the less we know about a subject, the more we think we know.

So if you catch someone who acts like they know everything there is to know about a subject or subjects, then they probably are in actuality a complete amateur in the field. The more competent you become in something, the more you realize you have left to learn and the more it tends to humble you about your own knowledge. (Which makes House about the most oppositest thing from a good doctor, ever.)
Ah, the universal bane of academics >_<


Offline Shjade

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2011, 12:38:04 PM »
I can't help thinking that diagram looks more like a measure of semantic familiarity than math education. Isn't arguing definitions of terms a language issue more than a math issue?

*person who never went past Trig*

Offline Oniya

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2011, 02:49:10 PM »
There's a(n in)famous piece of work by Russell and Whitehead called the Principia Mathematica.  In it, every bit of mathematics was to be reduced to base principles, starting with deriving that something called '1' exists.  Then they went on to define addition.  I think that somewhere in Volume III, they finally got around to the fact that there is something called  '2', and that '1+1' was the same as that '2'.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2011, 02:56:48 PM »
A friend of mine was into the higher level mathematics stuff.  He said that once you got into number theory, the very definition of a number became suspect.  So there is a lot of theory and unknown behind mathematics. 

Offline Vekseid

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2011, 06:20:08 PM »
I can't help thinking that diagram looks more like a measure of semantic familiarity than math education. Isn't arguing definitions of terms a language issue more than a math issue?

*person who never went past Trig*

You think that because the concept of the number 1, as well as basic addition and counting, is hardwired into your brain. You know them because you were born knowing them, and they're instinctive. It's difficult to get a true appreciation for just what that sort of leap is.

For simplicity's sake, we take these things that we tend to take for granted, label them as such, and call them postulates.

Sometimes you can prove what was previously assumed to be a postulate, and there is much rejoicing. Alternately, you can create new logical frameworks and try to work from there - ordinals, Boolean algebra, etc.

Okay. So.

Craft a valid algebra such that you do not have to explicitly declare that x=x, because that is cheating, yet you can still prove it to be so.

This can be rather difficult but it doesn't necessarily need to be that bad - take set theory

Define the number zero as the the empty set, ∅
Define n+1 as n U {n} - that is, n+1 is the set which is the union of n and its set.

Thus, 0 = ∅, 1 = {0}, 2 = {0, 1}

Define two sets to be equal if they contain the exact same contents.
 
Thus 1 = 1 breaks down into {0} = {0} and thus is equal.

It's been years since I've studied set theory, and there is quite a bit I've skipped over there.

It should be fairly obvious that we've only really moved the goal posts here, because we're defining a successor function to zero, declaring it to be a number and providing no real logical context for doing so other than declaring it to be so. This is where your confidence starts to waver because it makes it rather plain that our logic requires such obvious assumptions. And per Gödel's incompleteness theorem, it's only ever going to be this way - you can try to make a system more 'complete' e.g. with set theory here, but it will never be complete if you are consistent.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2011, 07:32:25 PM »
Kind of points back to what Trieste made mention of earlier.  The more you learn, the less you feel like you know.

Offline Shjade

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2011, 12:14:21 PM »
You think that because the concept of the number 1, as well as basic addition and counting, is hardwired into your brain. You know them because you were born knowing them, and they're instinctive. It's difficult to get a true appreciation for just what that sort of leap is.
Uh, no. I'm fine with math working with the concept of the number 1 and the concept of "=" - those are both well within its purview.

I was confused by math defining "define" and "logic."

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2011, 02:11:29 AM »
There's a(n in)famous piece of work by Russell and Whitehead called the Principia Mathematica.  In it, every bit of mathematics was to be reduced to base principles, starting with deriving that something called '1' exists.  Then they went on to define addition.  I think that somewhere in Volume III, they finally got around to the fact that there is something called  '2', and that '1+1' was the same as that '2'.

Frege, who had famously been one of Russell's inspirators, and who had spent much of his life working on the relationship between mathematics and logic, opened a paper on Number towards the end of his life (he was about 75 years old at the time) with "My efforts to understand what is meant by number have resulted in failure. We are only too easily misled by language, and in this particular case, the nature of our misunder-standing is little short of disastrous".  ;)

Online Denivar

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2011, 12:30:21 AM »
An interesting misconception I found corrected on a recent trip to Poland: In World War 2, Polish cavalry did not make a futile charge against German tanks. This was the result of some German propaganda. Something I found even more interesting though, was that while to modern minds the use of horses seem such an anachronism in the World War 2 era, in actual fact horses were used quite extensively in World War 2 -- mostly by the Germans and Soviets. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horses_in_World_War_II -- of course, the combatants were quite aware of the uses of horses, and used them largely to move infantry around quickly, and to pull artillery pieces. No commander would charge his cavalry against armored units.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2011, 02:46:44 PM »
Many people in Europe think the American right to carry firearms extends to legal immunity over any use of the gun to prevent crime, so that U.S. citizens who own legal guns would have an unlimited right to shoot and kill anyone who even appears to be opening an attempt to mug them, threaten anyone in their company if only with words or gestures, etc. No matter whether the other one - the "crook" - actually raised a weapon, or whether the incident happened at the home of the person who fired in defense or in public. In the eyes of these non-Americans, anyone who fires at a stranger in America is hailed like Travis Bickle at the end of Taxi Driver, as soon as it's been reasonably established that the person/s who bought it had some kind of criminal intent, the cops by default will ask no further questions and there is no responsibility whatsoever.

Offline Tamhansen

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2011, 06:32:06 AM »
Actually the Mujaheddin (can't ever spell this right) in the Afghan resistance used horses extensively during the Soviet assault on their country. Horses were simply more efficient on the terrain.

As for Europeans believing the US is still in the wild west, I'm not really sure how widespread that belief is. 

Offline Oniya

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2011, 12:53:34 PM »
I think it's less the 'Wild West', and more 'Bugsy Malone'. 

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2011, 01:05:11 PM »
A mix between the Wild West and tv detective series, I think. Sure enough people realize that tv P.I. series do not reflect how it really works, but the idea that if you shoot a conman (or just a teen acting suspiciously) in the U.S. and it's in threatening or fuzzy circumstances the police will look the other way, and with the law supporting them in doing so  - that idea is rather widespread outside of the U.S. I've even heard people who have studied law here invoking it as a fact - though sometimes those people were also embracing armed vigilantism and wanted an argument to make it seem natural that the ordinary Joe should be enlisted to "shoot off the scum".
« Last Edit: May 07, 2011, 01:08:44 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2011, 01:14:58 PM »
Well, there are certain states that have the 'Castle' law (one has no 'duty to retreat' if protecting one's home), and I think defense of self and others is another valid defense - I watch as many real court shows as I can get my mitts on - but Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson are most assuredly mythical.

Offline PfefferKuchen

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2011, 04:20:39 AM »
Many people in Europe think the American right to carry firearms extends to legal immunity over any use of the gun to prevent crime, so that U.S. citizens who own legal guns would have an unlimited right to shoot and kill anyone who even appears to be opening an attempt to mug them, threaten anyone in their company if only with words or gestures, etc. No matter whether the other one - the "crook" - actually raised a weapon, or whether the incident happened at the home of the person who fired in defense or in public. In the eyes of these non-Americans, anyone who fires at a stranger in America is hailed like Travis Bickle at the end of Taxi Driver, as soon as it's been reasonably established that the person/s who bought it had some kind of criminal intent, the cops by default will ask no further questions and there is no responsibility whatsoever.

To further this people are also under the misconception that American gun laws in any way regulate the sale or distribution of guns not on the banned or restricted lists or that all gun owners must have some kind of permit for their firearms. Compared to complete gun control states like Japan going to the wal*mart and buying a revolver does probably look pretty wild west.

Offline Tamhansen

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2011, 04:25:33 AM »
tbh not a lot of walmarts sell guns without a permit. federal laws and such. Smaller dealers might as they're less scrutinized.

Offline PfefferKuchen

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #21 on: May 08, 2011, 04:38:42 AM »
tbh not a lot of walmarts sell guns without a permit. federal laws and such. Smaller dealers might as they're less scrutinized.

You're right it's still on a state by state basis but some of them do which is the weird part! For what it's worth Japan doesn't have a complete ban on firearms either but they're severely restricted.

Offline Tamhansen

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #22 on: May 08, 2011, 04:46:35 AM »
I live by two, at first sight very contrasting, but both very true ideas about gun control.

1) If anyone can buy a gun, then stupid people can buy guns. Guns don't kill perople stupid people kill people.

2) If you outlaw guns only the outlaws have guns

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #23 on: May 08, 2011, 07:37:04 AM »
I live by two, at first sight very contrasting, but both very true ideas about gun control.

1) If anyone can buy a gun, then stupid people can buy guns. Guns don't kill perople stupid people kill people.

2) If you outlaw guns only the outlaws have guns

Not getting into a debate about gun licensing and gun control here, but my take on this would be that if anyone and everyone might have a gun at hand, the stakes after one or more criminals have started off an act of robbery, break-in, blackmail or the like become much higher. Because the crooks will judge their options from the perception that *anyone* has guns, victims or bystanders in particular, so they will be much more ready to fire themselves. Around here, you never get to hear of a home break-in that ended in the burglars killing the family that happened to be at home, or a mother or a neighbour who came home while the break-in was in progress (or even a corporate guard if it's a robbery of a storage place), killed to eliminate witnesses and/or to stop those people from possibly hauling up a gun and shooting the outlaws.Tied up or held at gunpoint, yes, sometimes, but almost never actual killings to make sure there is no resistance at a robbery (leaving aside cases of pure "robbery-homicide" here, where the robber/s had decided in advance to kill every victim or witness on the spot - but those are rare too).

 And I have to say (leaving aside any fantasy thrill here) that if I ran into a bunch of burglars and was overpowered I would prefer being tied up and told to sit tight to being shot in the head when one of them thought I was trying to reach a gun of my own. I can understand some people would feel that view means "giving in to the scum" but in my eyes life is more important than honour or money.

I can't recall, either, when I last heard of "civilians" actually getting killed during a store (or bank) robbery. That kind of thing almost exclusively happens between criminals themselves, settling their own scores; I think this is true for most of northern Europe. Even cops getting killed on the job is very rare, though they do carry firearms - and that's not because criminality here is always soft, not at all, we do have ruthless mobs too - but because standard robbery doesn't escalate as easily into a shooting rampage when it's not very likely that the ordinary people the criminals encounter, their victims or witnesses,  might have guns. If guns tend to be seen as a matter of course, and if you can get them as easily as buying a wristwatch - if not in one's own state, then in the next one - both cops and crooks will act on the feeling that anyone might have a loaded gun.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2011, 08:07:17 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Zakharra

Re: Common Misconceptions and Popular Myths
« Reply #24 on: May 08, 2011, 10:01:35 AM »
Not getting into a debate about gun licensing and gun control here, but my take on this would be that if anyone and everyone might have a gun at hand, the stakes after one or more criminals have started off an act of robbery, break-in, blackmail or the like become much higher. Because the crooks will judge their options from the perception that *anyone* has guns, victims or bystanders in particular, so they will be much more ready to fire themselves. Around here, you never get to hear of a home break-in that ended in the burglars killing the family that happened to be at home, or a mother or a neighbour who came home while the break-in was in progress (or even a corporate guard if it's a robbery of a storage place), killed to eliminate witnesses and/or to stop those people from possibly hauling up a gun and shooting the outlaws.Tied up or held at gunpoint, yes, sometimes, but almost never actual killings to make sure there is no resistance at a robbery (leaving aside cases of pure "robbery-homicide" here, where the robber/s had decided in advance to kill every victim or witness on the spot - but those are rare too).

 And I have to say (leaving aside any fantasy thrill here) that if I ran into a bunch of burglars and was overpowered I would prefer being tied up and told to sit tight to being shot in the head when one of them thought I was trying to reach a gun of my own. I can understand some people would feel that view means "giving in to the scum" but in my eyes life is more important than honour or money.

I can't recall, either, when I last heard of "civilians" actually getting killed during a store (or bank) robbery. That kind of thing almost exclusively happens between criminals themselves, settling their own scores; I think this is true for most of northern Europe. Even cops getting killed on the job is very rare, though they do carry firearms - and that's not because criminality here is always soft, not at all, we do have ruthless mobs too - but because standard robbery doesn't escalate as easily into a shooting rampage when it's not very likely that the ordinary people the criminals encounter, their victims or witnesses,  might have guns. If guns tend to be seen as a matter of course, and if you can get them as easily as buying a wristwatch - if not in one's own state, then in the next one - both cops and crooks will act on the feeling that anyone might have a loaded gun.

 That hasn't happened for the most part. A LOT of people in the US have guns, in their homes and on their persons. Yet the scenario you have described hasn't come to pass. Getting a gun is fairly easy in many places and most people who get one legally use it responsibly. 

I do disagree with the gun lawsa that require a person to keep the gun and ammunition completely separate in different rooms in the housae, locked down in a safe with a gun lo9ck. That is just bloody stupid. By the tme you got the gun out, put together and loaded, you'd have had time to kill the intruder several times over with a bat, knife or sword, or the intruder would have had a lot of time to kill/rape/kidnap you anyways.