I’ll be the first to say that in the wide, wide scope of medicine, there is a lot of confusion, many myths, and quite a bit of misunderstanding. Study results often get trumpeted in newspapers and television broadcasts, often without the whole story coming through.
Doctors Health Press strives to bring you the most trusted information about complementary and alternative medicine possible. Our writers sift through a lot of less-than- trustworthy information and go right to the big-time sources — often the world’s major medical journals.
I’m talking about this for a reason. New research says the way that consumers remember things can make the line between truth and myth foggy. As months and years roll on, people retain health information they read or hear about to some degree. The problem is that our memory confuses the difference of what information was myth and what was truth. The result is that if anything comes along and sounds familiar to us — “I’ve heard of that treatment before, it’s supposed to be really good” — we believe that it’s true. The problem is, it could be a myth that we are actually remembering.
Researchers claim that it’s because we forget the context of the information as time goes on and simply remember the claim, which may or may not be completely earnest. Some call this the “illusion of truth.” We think of familiar information as true; I guess that’s human nature. The researchers tested this over the short-term with 64 volunteers — half were adolescents and half were over 70. They told the volunteers about 30 health claims that they had never heard before. Then they told the volunteers that some were true and some were false.
After a half-hour, they showed the volunteers another list of items with the same claims along with some new ones mixed in. Then the volunteers were asked which were false and which were true. The older adults were far more likely to forget which were true and which were false — and when they were asked again three days later, they remembered even less.
This type of thing has been done before, and it’s not always older adults that tend to forget the difference between right and wrong facts. We all seem to lack the ability to separate fact from fiction at times. As you might imagine, this becomes very important in medicine. Don’t believe your memory folks, because it might be wrong.
To prevent this from happening, keep a written log of all the trusted information you come across. Also, put it in your own words and read it aloud, as this will help you remember. And if you’re in the health food store and are about to drop $50 on a bottle of supplements, don’t trust your memory because you recognize the name. Go back and do more research if you need to. Remember that things are not always what you think they are. When your health is on the line, you need to get it right.