Urban Folklore and Fits of Fancy
Many pieces of research evidence appear to be sound when, in fact, they are troubled. One of the greatest difficulties falls in the category of "urban folklore." These stories appear to be true, usually come from trusted personal sources, and tend to reinforce popular fears or legends. Technically, these urban folklore examples are instances of reporting evidence and may be tested by applying the standards found on page 152 of the textbook.
Some of these matters have made their ways into popular memory by frequent repetition. Here are some urban legends you may have heard. In each case, these stories deal with reports that are materially untrue.
|There is prune juice in Dr. Pepper.|
|A dead mouse was found in a Coke bottle--the person who found it sued for a million dollars and won.|
|There are ground worms in McDonald's hamburgers.|
|There have been spider eggs discovered in Bubble-Yum bubble gum.|
|Girl Scout cookies, among other products, have been mixed with THC or hashish.|
|Proctor and Gamble uses a logo that promotes devil worship.|
|Kentucky Fired Chicken served up a rat in a bucket of chicken purchased by a customer--that customer now is suing.|
|There is lye in Pepperidge Farm pretzels.|
|A particular cigarette filter contained ground glass.|
|"Pop Rocks" have exploded in children's stomachs.|
|Gillette lowers the quality of old razor blades when it comes out with a new line of razor blades.|
Source: Dickson, P., & Goulden, J. C. (1983). There are alligators in the sewers and other American credos. New York: Delacorte Press, pp. 15-16.
From this list, select your "favorite" story and answer these questions:
a. What flaws in evidence did believers of this story make?
b. What flaws in reasoning did believers of this story make?
Now, look for two additional urban legends that are found discussed on the Internet.
Here is a list of websites that catalogue urban legends that you may have heard.
|The AFU Urban Legends Archive|
Internet Hoaxes, Urban Legends, Rumors, and other|
|Plastic Thoughts: Urban Legends and True News|
|Urban Legends Reference Pages|
|Tales Too Tall to be True|
|Terry Chan's Urban Folklore List|
|Urban Legends and Modern Folklore|
|Urban Myths and Legends|
After reviewing some of these sites, find two urban legends that are discussed on the Internet. For each urban legend,
|Make a copy of the Web page in which each urban legend is discussed.|
|What may be the motivations for spreading these urban legends?|
|What do these legends have in common (e.g., type of target, underlying values, moral to be derived from it)?|
|Using the tests of evidence found in Chapter 5, what question(s)--if asked--might have prevented the spread of rumors?|