Patient Education

Melding Fact & Fiction

The handy articles that list health myths and then explain them as true or false may actually confuse patients. Because of how our memories work, we remember the health information we read, but regard it as true whether it fact or fiction.

The brain encodes a memory of the health information, but not many of the details about it, like where we read it or if it is true or false. As the details of the memory fade, the particulars that do remain fade faster than the claim itself. Long after a patient has forgotten these details, the claim remains familiar.

Then the “illusion of truth” takes over. Basically, we think of the information that is familiar as true even though we can’t remember the contexts of the claim.

The article’s bottom line? Don’t trust your memory. With the enormous amount of information that’s available and the foggy-headedness of headache sufferers, this is easier said than done. You can take notes or, if your reading fact or fiction articles online, you can bookmark the site to refer back to it. But how many people honestly do that? The best bet is that if something sounds vaguely familiar, check a reliable source to see whether it is true or false. Then try to remember what that source says.

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