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.

bulletThere is prune juice in Dr. Pepper.
bulletA dead mouse was found in a Coke bottle--the person who found it sued for a million dollars and won.
bulletThere are ground worms in McDonald's hamburgers.
bulletThere have been spider eggs discovered in Bubble-Yum bubble gum.
bulletGirl Scout cookies, among other products, have been mixed with THC or hashish.
bulletProctor and Gamble uses a logo that promotes devil worship.
bulletKentucky Fired Chicken served up a rat in a bucket of chicken purchased by a customer--that customer now is suing.
bulletThere is lye in Pepperidge Farm pretzels.
bulletA particular cigarette filter contained ground glass.
bullet"Pop Rocks" have exploded in children's stomachs.
bulletGillette 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.

bulletThe AFU Urban Legends Archive
bulletCurrent Internet Hoaxes, Urban Legends, Rumors, and other
digital lies
bulletPlastic Thoughts:  Urban Legends and True News
bulletUrban Legends Reference Pages
bulletTales Too Tall to be True
bulletTerry Chan's Urban Folklore List
bulletUrban Legends and Modern Folklore
bulletUrban Myths
bulletUrban Myths and Legends

After reviewing some of these sites, find two urban legends that are discussed on the Internet.  For each urban legend,

bulletMake a copy of the Web page in which each urban legend is discussed.
bulletWhat may be the motivations for spreading these urban legends?
bulletWhat do these legends have in common (e.g., type of target, underlying values, moral to be derived from it)?
bulletUsing the tests of evidence found in Chapter 5, what question(s)--if asked--might have prevented the spread of rumors?