August 24, 2009

Six Psychology Myths

Cracked doesn't exactly have a reputation for scientific journalism. But they hit the nail on the head with their six mistaken facts, therein referred to as BS, about psychology that people tend to believe. And spout off at cocktail parties when they don't know they're talking to an actual psychologist.

You can read the whole piece here and I urge you to do so because the writers at Cracked have a way with words that I can't duplicate here.

But I'll summarize:

BS #1: So angry you want to smash something? Think you'll feel better afterwards?

Fact*: Don't. It won't help and will probably lead to more anger down the road. We're better off managing our anger, controlling it, letting go of it, deep breathing and changing the way we think about the situation that is leading to our anger. Less anger is better than "getting it all out" in some kind of aggressive rage. Kind of undercuts one of the selling points of Sarah's Smash Shack. Sorry, Sarah. (But I still wouldn't mind giving it a shot.)

BS #2: You can do anything you want to do as long as you believe in yourself.

Fact: Better success can be had with learning self improvement skills. Take lessons. Practice. Practice some more. And yes, work on improving your self-image while you're at it. Drop negative self-talk. Give yourself affirming messages. But increasing your "self esteem" alone? Probably not gonna cut it, unless you already have a good skill set.

BS #3: People who join cults are naive idiots.

Fact: Cult members are no less smart, on the whole, than you or me. Cults target people who are in transition, vulnerable, feeling desperate, and in need of social affiliation.

BS #4: Subliminal messages cause us to buy things we don't want or need.

Fact: Nope. There's no conclusive evidence that it works.

BS #5: Lie detectors work.

Fact: Slightly better than flipping a coin, yes. Which means, too many times it says we're lying, when we're not. There are ways to beat polygraphs. There are variables that interfere with producing reliable results. They're not admissable in court and with good reason.

BS #6: All homophobes are secretly gay.

Fact: Again, no real evidence supports this widely circulated belief. People who hate or fear homosexuality report a range of reasons. Yes, there are some who are secretly harboring homosexual impulses and they are too ashamed to deal with it. But there are others who rant and rage for the effect or because they've grown up being fed a lot of negative messages about gays and lesbians, not because they're deep down attracted to same sex individuals.

*refers to what is widely believed in the psychological community at this moment in time.

Image source: John Malkovich in Burn After Reading (see it for his performance alone).

Sandy Andrews, PhD , Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist in Austin, Texas

Grief Resources in Austin and Beyond

When you need more than your loved ones can provide, there is help.            Resources for Grief and Support Groups     Compassionate Frie...