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50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology


Why Should We Care?

1) Psychological myths can be harmful. For example, jurors who believe incorrectly that memory operates like a videotape may vote to convict a defendant on the basis of eyewitness testimony.
2)Psychological myths can cause indirect damage. Even false beliefs that are themselves harmless can inflict significant indirect harm (Opportunity costs with ineffective treatments).
3) The acceptance of psychological myths can impede our critical thinking in other areas (8).
Top 10 Sources of Psychological Myths: Your Mythbusting Kit
Page 9: The scientific method is a toolbox of skills designed to prevent scientists from fooling themselves.
Page 10: 1. Word of mouth: We often mistake the familiarity of a statement for it’s accuracy

Hearing a statement repeated 10 times can make us feel as if it’s as widespread as hearing 10 people express it.

2. Desire for easy answers
3. Selective Perception and memory
We ought to focus on “The Great Fourfold Table of Life” Instead of paying attention only to when we see the phenomenon coupled with the expected result, we need to focus on four areas.
a. Phenomenon X, Result Y
b. Phenomenon X, No Result Y
c. No Phenomenon X, Result Y
d. No Phenomenon X, No Result Y
Only when knowing all four can we tease out a correlation. Most focus on just a.
4. Correlation inferred from causation.
If correlation (A) A causes B (B) B causes A (C) Third variable causes both (I would add (D) maybe it’s coincidental)
5. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
6. Exposure to Biased Sample- clinician illusion
Media shows stories where 75% of time, mentally ill are violent. Clinician sees only the chronic cases of a disease, so overestimates the prevalence of chronic diseases.
7. Representativeness heuristic
Not all things that resemble each other superficially are related on a deeper level.
Handwriting analysis, rhino horn = you know what
8. Misleading Film and Media Portrayals
9. Exaggeration of a Kernal of Truth
We only use 10% of our brain, opposites attract, men are from mars, etc.
10. Terminological Confusion
Schizophrenia, Hypnosis

Ulric Neisser and Nicole Harsch’s (1992) study of memory disintegration. Took two time points, one 24 hours after Challenger exploded, another 2.5 years later.

Description 1. I was in my religion class and some people walked in and started talking about it. I didn’t know any details except that it had exploded and the schoolteacher’s students had all been watching which I thought was so sad. Then after class I went and watched a TV program talking about it and I got all the details from that.

Description 2. When I first heard about the explosion I was sitting in my freshman dorm roon with my roommate and we were watching TV. It came on a news flash and we were both totally shocked. I was really upset and I went upstairs to talk to a friend of mine and then I called my parents.

Of 239 criminal defendants freed on the basis of DNA testing, as of June 2009, 75% were convicted largely on the basis of inaccurate eyewitness testimony (66).

Stereotypes afford an excellent example of how schemas can influence our memory. Mark Snyder and Seymour Uranowitz (1978) presented subjects with a detailed case study of a woman named Betty K. After reading this information, they told some subjects that Betty K was currently living either a heterosexual or a lesbian lifestyle. Snyder and Uranowitz then gave subjects a recognition test of for the material in the passage. They found that participants distorted their memory of the original information, such as her dating relationships. . .

A flood of similar studies followed (Elizabeth Loftus 1993 study, and Loftus and Ketcham 1994) showing that in 18-37% of participants, researchers can implant entirely false memories of complex events ranging from a serious animal attack to a medical procedure (68).

Page 84: IQ tests predict success in office, job performance, etc.

Page 107: Dreams are supercharged with emotion!

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