Myths about human psychology abound. The scary thing is, a good many have persisted so long as to now be accepted, unchallenged, as fact.
The book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior, by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, Barry L. Beyerstein, is a great resource for setting the psychological record straight. It belongs on everyone’s bookshelf, marketers included.
If you don’t care to pick up the book, below is the table of contents, a mini-education in its own right. But I urge you to get the book. It adds explanations and perspective, plus includes oodles of bonus myths at the end of each section.
— Steve Cuno
50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology:
Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior
Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, Barry L. Beyerstein
Table of Contents:
1 Brain Power.
Myths about the Brain and Perception.
#1 Most People Use Only 10% of Their Brain Power.
#2 Some People Are Left-Brained, Others Are Right-Brained.
#3 Extrasensory Perception Is a Well-Established Scientific Phenomenon.
#4 Visual Perceptions Are Accompanied by Tiny Emissions from the Eyes.
#5 Subliminal Messages Can Persuade People to Purchase Products.
2 From Womb to Tomb.
Myths about Development and Aging.
#6 Playing Mozart’s Music to Infants Boosts Their Intelligence.
#7 Adolescence Is Inevitably a Time of Psychological Turmoil.
#8 Most People Experience a Midlife Crisis in Their 40s or Early 50s.
#9 Old Age Is Typically Associated with Increased Dissatisfaction and Senility.
#10 When Dying, People Pass through a Universal Series of Psychological Stages.
3 A Remembrance of Things Past.
Myths about Memory.
#11 Human Memory Works like a Tape Recorder or Video Camera, and Accurately Records the Events We’ve Experienced.
#12 Hypnosis is Useful for Retrieving Memories of Forgotten Events.
#13 Individuals Commonly Repress the Memories of Traumatic Experiences.
#14 Most People with Amnesia Forget All Details of Their Earlier Lives.
4 Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks.
Myths about Intelligence and Learning.
#15 Intelligence Tests Are Biased against Certain Groups of People.
#16 If You’re Unsure of Your Answer When Taking a Test, It’s Best to Stick with Your Initial Hunch.
#17 The Defining Feature of Dyslexia Is Reversing Letters.
#18 Students Learn Best When Teaching Styles Are Matched to Their Learning Styles.
5 Altered States.
Myths about Consciousness.
#19 Hypnosis Is a Unique “Trance” State that Differs in Kind from Wakefulness.
#20 Researchers Have Demonstrated that Dreams Possess Symbolic Meaning.
#21 Individuals Can Learn Information, like New Languages, while Asleep.
#22 During “Out-of-Body” Experiences, People’s Consciousness Leaves Their Bodies.
6 I’ve Got a Feeling.
Myths about Emotion and Motivation.
#23 The Polygraph (“Lie Detector”) Test Is an Accurate Means of Detecting Dishonesty.
#24 Happiness Is Determined Mostly by Our External Circumstances.
#25 Ulcers Are Caused Primarily or Entirely by Stress.
#26 A Positive Attitude Can Stave off Cancer.
7 The Social Animal.
Myths about Interpersonal Behavior.
#27 Opposites Attract: We Are Most Romantically Attracted to People Who Differ from Us.
#28 There’s Safety in Numbers: The More People Present at an Emergency, the Greater the Chance that Someone Will Intervene.
#29 Men and Women Communicate in Completely Different Ways.
#30 It’s Better to Express Anger to Others than to Hold It in.
8 Know Thyself.
Myths about Personality.
#31 Raising Children Similarly Leads to Similarities in Their Adult Personalities.
#32 The Fact that a Trait Is Heritable Means We Can't Change It.
#33 Low Self-Esteem Is a Major Cause of Psychological Problems.
#34 Most People Who Were Sexually Abused in Childhood Develop Severe Personality Disturbances in Adulthood.
#35 People's Responses to Inkblots Tell Us a Great Deal about Their Personalities.
#36 Our Handwriting Reveals Our Personality Traits.
9 Sad, Mad, and Bad.
Myths about Mental Illness.
#37 Psychiatric Labels Cause Harm by Stigmatizing People.
#38 Only Deeply Depressed People Commit Suicide.
#39 People with Schizophrenia Have Multiple Personalities.
#40 Adult Children of Alcoholics Display a Distinct Profile of Symptoms.
#41 There’s Recently Been a Massive Epidemic of Infantile Autism.
#42 Psychiatric Hospital Admissions and Crimes Increase during Full Moons.
10 Disorder in the Court.
Myths about Psychology and the Law.
#43 Most Mentally Ill People Are Violent.
#44 Criminal Profiling Is Helpful in Solving Cases.
#45 A Large Proportion Of Criminals Successfully Use the Insanity Defense.
#46 Virtually All People Who Confess to a Crime Are Guilty of It.
11 Skills and Pills.
Myths about Psychological Treatment.
#47 Expert Judgment and Intuition Are the Best Means of Making Clinical Decisions.
#48 Abstinence Is the Only Realistic Treatment Goal for Alcoholics.
#49 All Effective Psychotherapies Force People to Confront the “Root” Causes of Their Problems in Childhood.
#50 Electroconvulsive (“Shock”) Therapy Is a Physically Dangerous and Brutal Treatment.