10 Common Myths around Psychology you didn’t know

10 Common Myths around Psychology you didn’t know

myths around psychology

Myth, also known as a misconception or a widely believed false thought can exist in various areas of life. Sometimes these misconceptions are so popular and used as the most common narrative that it becomes difficult to distinguish them from truth. They become a part and parcel of everyday life. Such myths exist in psychology as well. If you are not well-versed with the subject, then it is likely that you believe in these narratives too. Today, we will delve into these false narratives and try to separate the myths from the facts. With this article, you will gain a clear understanding of what psychology is as a field.

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Busting Myths Around Psychology
1. Some people are right-brained and some people are left-brained

You’ve probably heard people saying that creative and analytic people mostly function by their right brain and their left brain respectively. The common misconception is that one side of our brain is mostly dominant. This myth is usually derived from the science behind brain lateralization and how each side of our brain is focused on performing different activities.

Research shows that everyone uses both sides of their brains equally because, though most abilities are based in different regions of the brain, they can be carried out by the connections formed between different parts (Edwards, n.d). A particular section of the brain can become strong if an individual’s lifestyle is such that they use that specific section of the brain. However, it’s not the entire left or right part of the brain that becomes strong, but only that particular section.

Fact: Different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions and we use both sides of the brain equally.

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2. Psychology is all about common sense and giving advice

The complexity of psychology as a subject is often not realized. This has given rise to the misconception that psychology is just common sense and that psychologists charge money just to advise based on common sense. Human behaviour is complex and involves an intricate interaction between thoughts, emotions and actions. Some processes of the human mind can be seen as common sense but psychology tries to understand the reason behind such behaviours.

For example: Psychology tries to understand the neural processes behind how memory is processed and how we recall information. It also tries to understand how we make decisions. This goes beyond common sense. Common sense often means that what is true for one, is true for everybody. It is a one-size-fits-all notion. In contrast, psychology recognises variability in human nature.

Fact: Psychology is empirical. It is a science that tests hypotheses and theories. Therefore, it is not just common sense and advice.

3. Psychological illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain

Chemical imbalances do affect us in some ways. However, stating that psychological illness is solely caused by this chemical imbalance is an oversimplification. Anxiety, depression and schizophrenia are some psychological disorders that are by chemical imbalances in the brain. However, imbalance is not the only contributing factor. Environment and genetic influence also play a role.

Fact: Lifestyle choices and certain patterns of behaviour can influence mental health. Chemical imbalance is just one factor that leads to psychological illness. They arise from a combination of social, environmental, genetic and biological factors.

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4. Endorsing Psychology means giving up your religious beliefs.

Psychology is unlike many empirical sciences. Your faith and your belief in psychology can coexist together. Views and beliefs can be diverse and individuals have the freedom to separate their religious beliefs from their beliefs about psychology.

Fact: Psychology does not ask you to forgo your religious beliefs. These can exist simultaneously and vary from person to person.

5. Psychologists can read minds.

In your pursuit of psychology as an academic degree, you might have been asked by many people, relatives and friends alike to “tell me what’s on my mind.” It can be increasingly annoying when this happens. Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour. It tries to understand our cognition, emotions, and actions and how we react to situations in different environments.

Fact: Psychologists try to understand your situations and issues and guide you to find a solution to these issues. They predict that if you continue to behave in a certain way or adopt a certain thinking pattern, then you might face certain consequences.

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6. There are different learning styles and preferred ways of learning.

Learning styles refer to how a child or we as humans prefer to receive information. There are four types of learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing). This is also known as the VARK model. The model states that students learn and retain information based on their different learning modes. Therefore, a student who prefers a visual mode of learning may process and learn information more efficiently if information is presented to them in a visual form such as videos and pictures.

However, this is not well-supported by scientific research. It is usually suggested that diverse methods of teaching and approaches lead to a better understanding of a topic rather than a fixed style.

Fact: The idea of fixed, distinct learning styles doesn’t align with the complexity of human cognition and the dynamic nature of learning. A student’s preference on the mode of learning may change based on what subject they are trying to learn and would rather indulge in diverse and carried approaches than fixed learning styles.

7. Opposites attract

TV shows and movies have time and time again given us couples with opposite character traits who were perfect for each other. It is a popular belief that opposites attract, that we are like magnets and are driven towards those who are opposites. Not only is this false, but it is also a severe misconception that is still believed by many people today. Similarity between partners is more common in relationships than opposites.

Kosinski et al., (2017) stated that when we are surfing online we interact mostly with those who are similar to us. Humans usually gravitate towards those who are similar and not the opposite. A different study that looked at 130 traits of people in a relationship found that they shared a similarity in most of their traits. According to the research, between 82% and 89% of traits examined were similar among partners, with only 3% ranking as substantially different (Horwtiz et al., 2023).

Fact: /Like Birds of the same feather, indeed flock together. People usually surround themselves and build friendships and relationships with those who are similar to them.

8. Expressing anger is better than holding it in.

It is usually believed that repressed anger can fester and the buildup is like steam building up in a pressure cooker. Sigmund Freud believed that repressed anger leads to conditions like hysteria and trip-wired aggression. A common misconception is that venting anger will give you relief. A sought of purification. But this is not true. Venting might give you temporary relief but that does not address the core problem of your anger. It is also a reinforcement of negative emotions.

Fact: Research suggests that venting your anger in this way has the opposite effect: The more you vent, the worse you’ll feel (Morin, 2015).

9. The 55-38-7 principle of communication

Albert Mehrabian’s research is often cited to indicate that the percentages, that is, 7% of the meaning in a conversation are conveyed vocally through words. 38 per cent is conveyed through tone of voice and 55 per cent of the message is communicated through body language. However, this is simply a misinterpretation of Albert Mehrabian’s research which was focused on how humans derive meaning from communicating attitude and feelings. This rule can only be applied for situations where the content of the conversation is known and when there is an incongruency between your nonverbal and verbal communication.

Fact: The 7-38-55 rule is often misinterpreted and should not be generalized to all situations.

10. Generating ideas through brainstorming in groups leads to better results than brainstorming ideas individually

Brainstorming refers to the situation where you purposefully try to generate a list of ideas or suggestions/solutions. These ideas are used to write about and for discussions as well as for solving problems. Originally brainstorming was considered a group problem-solving method. People in a group spontaneously contribute as many ideas and solutions as they can. Based on this diverse knowledge, an optimum solution for the problem is sought.

Adrian Furnham in 2000 published The Brainstorming Myth stated that research shows unequivocally that brainstorming groups produce fewer and poorer quality ideas than the same number of individuals working alone. Yet companies continue to use brainstorming as an ideation technique (Furnham, 2000).

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Criticism is often avoided when you brainstorm ideas and it is one of the central principles. Alex Osborne (1940) called it the process of generating ideas with the absence of criticism and negative reactions. Research shows that criticism does not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulates them relative to every other condition (Nemeth, 2003). The absence of criticism and negative feedback, as advocated by its creator, can lead to consensus rather than creativity (Aries, 2023).

Fact: While group brainstorming can be effective in solving complex problems, it is not a useful strategy when the goal is to create a list of ideas. In retrospect, individual brainstorming is the most effective when you need to generate a list of ideas.

Summing up

Psychology as a field has not been immune to false and misunderstood concepts. When you foster a clear understanding of the myths and the facts about psychology, you gain a broader perspective on this field. By debunking these myths and embracing a more nuanced understanding of psychology, we can better appreciate the contributions of this field to improving mental health, relationships, and overall quality of life.

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