Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Focus on the Truth, Not the Myth

FDOT Assistant Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator Dwight Kingsbury posted the following to the e-mail list of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. It's information that will be especially useful for advocates and safety proponents:

"The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine.""

"When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual."

"Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC...the studies show that the brain uses subconscious "rules of thumb" that can bias it into thinking that false information is true...."

"The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it..."

"Mayo found that rather than deny a false claim, it is better to make a completely new assertion that makes no reference to the original myth..."

The lesson for cyclists: the more you say "That road is dangerous," the more people believe you don't belong on it. Then, as other advocates say, "It's a myth that cycling on the road is dangerous," it only get reinforced even more.

The more motorists believe cycling on roadways is dangerous, the worse they will treat us.

1 comment:

Luis said...

Last month I wrote an editorial for our blog that deals with this topic, Lead by Example,, and as I say in it, we cannot control motor vehicle driver's behavior, but we can certainly control our own, and that's what it'll take in part for things to change for the better.

We have to start somewhere.