7 Psychology Facts That Sound Like Myths, But Aren't

Last week, we shared “10 of Psychology’s Greatest Myths,” which came courtesy of Scott Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, and Barry Beyerstein’s compendium of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology.

In writing the book, Lilienfeld and his co-authors sought to encourage a skeptical way of thinking. Just because something makes intuitive sense and has been repeated and repeated over decades and even centuries, doesn’t mean it’s backed up with scientific evidence.

"We should be especially skeptical of any sentence that begins with ‘Everyone knows that…’" Lilienfeld wrote.

Sometimes, the truth can be harder to believe and less well known than fiction, he continued. To demonstrate his point, Lilienfeld concluded the book with a selection of psychological findings that are difficult to believe, but still true. Here are seven of them.

Here’s a list of the 7 facts for easier access (links will open in a new window):

neurolove:

MYTH: Once your brain cells die, they can’t grow back. The brain does not change.
This follows the myth that you are born with all the neurons you’ll ever have. In fact, some neurons do regenerate and/or change. If they couldn’t, you’d have lost your sense of smell years ago! Not to mention, you’d never be able to form new memories or learn new things.
In the neuroscience community, we often discuss this with terms like “neurogenesis” and brain “plasticity.” Meaning that new neurons can grow (neurogenesis) and can change (plasticity) with time. Adult neurogenesis in mammals appears to occur in the olfactory bulb (these neurons have frequent turnover, due to their exposure and death) and the hippocampus- the part of the brain that creates memories (more info here). There is evidence that it may happen elsewhere in the brain too (for instance, this paper in Cell showed that it happens to interneurons in striatum).
However, unfortunately, some nerves can’t repair themselves or regrow once damaged in adulthood (like those in the spinal column). Not all neurons are like this, and sometimes they can repair themselves with partial damage but not when completely damaged, as comes into play with paralysis and Alzheimer’s disease. The field is still learning about these and which factors make them irreparable or irreplaceable. Maybe one day we’ll be able to fix all neural damage (people are investigating how to do this now! We’re not close to a cure, but others are beginning to understand this better).
For now, it’s important to know that this absolute statement is a myth, and some neurons do regrow- and our brain is changing all the time, as we learn new things and experience new memories.
[Image Source]

neurolove:

MYTH: Once your brain cells die, they can’t grow back. The brain does not change.

This follows the myth that you are born with all the neurons you’ll ever have. In fact, some neurons do regenerate and/or change. If they couldn’t, you’d have lost your sense of smell years ago! Not to mention, you’d never be able to form new memories or learn new things.

In the neuroscience community, we often discuss this with terms like “neurogenesis” and brain “plasticity.” Meaning that new neurons can grow (neurogenesis) and can change (plasticity) with time. Adult neurogenesis in mammals appears to occur in the olfactory bulb (these neurons have frequent turnover, due to their exposure and death) and the hippocampus- the part of the brain that creates memories (more info here). There is evidence that it may happen elsewhere in the brain too (for instance, this paper in Cell showed that it happens to interneurons in striatum).

However, unfortunately, some nerves can’t repair themselves or regrow once damaged in adulthood (like those in the spinal column). Not all neurons are like this, and sometimes they can repair themselves with partial damage but not when completely damaged, as comes into play with paralysis and Alzheimer’s disease. The field is still learning about these and which factors make them irreparable or irreplaceable. Maybe one day we’ll be able to fix all neural damage (people are investigating how to do this now! We’re not close to a cure, but others are beginning to understand this better).

For now, it’s important to know that this absolute statement is a myth, and some neurons do regrow- and our brain is changing all the time, as we learn new things and experience new memories.

[Image Source]

10 of Psychology's Greatest Myths - Myth over Mind

Popular psychology is rife with misinformation and falsehoods. And sadly, the vast majority of them show no signs of vacating everyday culture.

In 2009, Scott Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, and Barry Beyerstein assembled a compendium of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, then proceeded to dispel each and every one of them. Their book was a triumph of evidence and reason.

Using 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology as a guide, we’ve created a list of 10 of the biggest psychological myths. Don’t be ashamed if you believe one, or all, of these.

Here’s a list of the 10 myths for easier access (links will open in a new window):

One last thing: My blog is turning 2 at the end of this month! I’m thinking of celebrating by having a book giveaway. Since it fits with the overall theme of this blog, I’m thinking the book will be the one mentioned above, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology

But what do you guys think?

This is probably a long shot…

…but is anyone here attending the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) conference at San Antonio, TX?

I’m presenting a poster on Friday at 8am. But I’ll be there all three days with my university’s psychology club. Pretty excited.

If your gut tells you something is wrong, then it probably is wrong. Trust your gut and go with your first instinct. That’s why on test that measures recognition such as multiple choice test, going with your gut instinct is often the better choice than thinking rationally about an answer you don’t consciously recall.

(via psych2go)

BS. This is BS. I’ve looked into this before, and research says quite the opposite.

Half of your post are false — Asked by bttys

psych2go:

badpsych:

psych2go:

lindz-or-nah:

psych2go:

Yep! So you have to be able to pick out which ones. In the future, I will be adding references to the posts and you guys will be responsible or discussing or sharing your perspectives on them :) 

How do you know if they are false tho? Some posts could be true to some while others think that the same post is false based on experience

  • That’s the beauty of it. Without knowing much about psychology and research methods, it’s hard to distinguish actual facts from pseudoscience. Hence, this blog aims to encourage discussions and skepticism on what’s posted. This will be accomplished in 3 ways: 
  • 1. Including source articles of the origin of the facts. If a peer reviewed article could be cited, it will be. 
  • 2. A How to Guide on how to evaluate findings. This include how to search for the actual studies, how to analyze the studies (research flaws)
  • 3. Research methods. It’s crucial to understand how studies are tested and set up. 

A few problems I see with this:

  1. When new people find your blog, most won’t know it’s “up to them” to find out if it’s a fact or a myth. Most people don’t actively visit blog home pages to read “disclaimers.” Many will simply read the “facts/myths” and reblog them thinking they’re all true.
  2. Because these “facts/myths” are usually a sentence long, they might, at times, be oversimplifications and misrepresentations of complex phenomena. Psychological findings are not always so simple that they can be described in one sentence.
  3. Even if you do write posts that explain how to read scholarly articles to interpret the references, most people won’t be able to see the articles if the journals charge subscription fees. And reading an abstract is not the same as reading an actual study. In other words, they won’t be able to do their own fact-checking if they can’t access the scholarly articles.

I think a better approach would be to flat out tell people when a post is a fact or a myth, then have them explain why. If someone disagrees, they can open up a discussion about why they think the post isn’t a fact or a myth. But that’s just my opinion.

But to begin with, as psychology students, you and I both know that there is no such thing as pure facts in psychology. There are only theories that are backed up by many scientific findings. Research methods have their own limitations and potential flaws and can never fully capture the whole world’s population. Depending on the design of the methods or the samples of the participants, flaws can occur at any stage of the research methods. Even studies that are published in peer reviewed journals have flaws that are yet to be fully scrutinize at. 

The points you stated in counter to my are the exact points this blog will benefit readers. People have to learn to do their own research. If you tell people when something is a fact and when something’s a myth, how are people going to think for themselves? Yes, actual journals require you to pay for them and limits people access to them, but for the purpose of this blog I will be the one doing so to share what I read here. And if possible, there are free copies of paid ones if you look hard enough actually. 

The later plans of the month will be on ‘recruiting people to discuss studies with myself and help me write articles.’ If anyone’s interested in helping, that would be awesome. 

But I hope that you hardcore psych majors will still be able to enjoy the initiatives at the very least. None the less, I still enjoy any possible feedbacks, but if you stand on my position you will understand that you can’t please everyone (especially when you have over 500 000 thousands followers) and that only hopefully the majority will benefit (which is usually not possible, but worth a try). The rest can enjoy the blog as it is. 

While you are right in pointing out that there can be flaws and limitations in certain research methods, that does not mean we can never learn things that are real. If one psychologist performs an experiment in the U.S. with a particular sample of people, and another psychologist in, say, Germany performs the same experiment in a population of Germans and both get the same results, we can be confident that the results are real. So yeah, even if we can’t prove things at 100%, we can be extremely confident that there is something going on when independent researchers produce similar results across different cultures.

And the problem is that not everyone will take the time to do the research on their own. Furthermore, having a basic understanding of research methods is not always enough. Most scholarly papers use some form of statistical analysis; so a basic understanding of stats is also necessary. I’d say the average person lacks these two tools for doing their own research.

To reiterate my position, I feel that you spouting these “facts” and “myths” at people and expecting them to figure it out on their own is a bad idea. It’s like a swimming instructor teaching his students facts and myths about swimming (without telling them which is which) and then throwing them into a lake and hoping they do fine. 

Again, this is just my opinion. You do with your blog as you please. Just keep in mind that if you use the phrases “psychology says,” “studies find,” “psychologists say,” “psychological fact” or similar variations when presenting something that is obviously false, I’ll have to call you out on that. Because to me, that is how misinformation of psychology spreads. And I love this science too much to let people taint its image with false information.

Half of your post are false — Asked by bttys

cognitivedefusion:

badpsych:

cognitivedefusion:

badpsych:

psych2go:

lindz-or-nah:

psych2go:

Yep! So you have to be able to pick out which ones. In the future, I will be adding references to the posts and you guys will be responsible or discussing or sharing your perspectives on them :) 

How do you know if they are false tho? Some posts could be true to some while others think that the same post is false based on experience

  • That’s the beauty of it. Without knowing much about psychology and research methods, it’s hard to distinguish actual facts from pseudoscience. Hence, this blog aims to encourage discussions and skepticism on what’s posted. This will be accomplished in 3 ways: 
  • 1. Including source articles of the origin of the facts. If a peer reviewed article could be cited, it will be. 
  • 2. A How to Guide on how to evaluate findings. This include how to search for the actual studies, how to analyze the studies (research flaws)
  • 3. Research methods. It’s crucial to understand how studies are tested and set up. 

A few problems I see with this:

  1. When new people find your blog, most won’t know it’s “up to them” to find out if it’s a fact or a myth. Most people don’t actively visit blog home pages to read “disclaimers.” Many will simply read the “facts/myths” and reblog them thinking they’re all true.
  2. Because these “facts/myths” are usually a sentence long, they might, at times, be oversimplifications and misrepresentations of complex phenomena. Psychological findings are not always so simple that they can be described in one sentence.
  3. Even if you do write posts that explain how to read scholarly articles to interpret the references, most people won’t be able to see the articles if the journals charge subscription fees. And reading an abstract is not the same as reading an actual study. In other words, they won’t be able to do their own fact-checking if they can’t access the scholarly articles.

I think a better approach would be to flat out tell people when a post is a fact or a myth, then have them explain why. If someone disagrees, they can open up a discussion about why they think the post isn’t a fact or a myth. But that’s just my opinion.

I mean, what do people expect? There are tabs on that blog devoted to dreams and astrology…

Carl, your thoughts?

image

Yet, look at how many notes that blog gets. It reaches a lot of people. 

High-five for Sagan gif. But…about 1 in 4 Americans (29%) believe in astrology. I know people from all over the world use tumblr, but my gut tells me that percentage is much higher in tumblr. And the psychology tag is usually infested with dream interpretations.

I think most people who follow these “fact” blogs (and ours) are barely starting off with their studies in psychology. I remember when I took my intro class. I believed some of these things… like thinking that Freud’s theories were legit and still valid today.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say. I guess that people aren’t natural skeptics and need a little guidance.. 

I could not agree more with you, and my contention was not at all in what you were saying. You voiced good points which I agreed with. I was more just being a smartass by reminding those following the OP’s dialogue that this is a blog which promotes astrology and dreams under the guise of psychology, which is utter bullshit.

As psychhealth seemed to imply in her reblog of my initial response, psychology already has an awful reputation. Like, it’s horrible. The gap between the way it is perceived from the way professional research is actually done is so astounding that it will explode your mind (general tense of “you,” not saying you as in badpsych!) The blog from the OP just perpetuates that shitty, pseudoscientific image while claiming (I assume) to be a proponent and supporter of the field.

It’s a horrible irony. It’d be great if the person/people running it would actually do good things with it because of the immense support he/she/they have, but I won’t hold my breath.

I’m not entirely sure what purpose the person has for running that blog. They (I’ll use “they” in a general sense) have had several incarnations of that blog (like this blog) where they do pretty much the same thing, i.e. posting shady “facts,” dream interpretations, and astrology. And the posts always get a lot of traction.

It’s funny you should mention the reputation of psychology. I recently had a brief conversation with someone I know (a physics major) who insisted that psychology is not a science. And I’ve been reading a few articles on the topic (e.g. 1, 2) for a future blog post. 

But yeah, it’s a shame a psychology blog is bringing more harm than good to our awesome field. I’ll stay optimistic and hope that the blog owner(s) change their tactics of presenting “facts/myths.”

Half of your post are false — Asked by bttys

cognitivedefusion:

badpsych:

psych2go:

lindz-or-nah:

psych2go:

Yep! So you have to be able to pick out which ones. In the future, I will be adding references to the posts and you guys will be responsible or discussing or sharing your perspectives on them :) 

How do you know if they are false tho? Some posts could be true to some while others think that the same post is false based on experience

  • That’s the beauty of it. Without knowing much about psychology and research methods, it’s hard to distinguish actual facts from pseudoscience. Hence, this blog aims to encourage discussions and skepticism on what’s posted. This will be accomplished in 3 ways: 
  • 1. Including source articles of the origin of the facts. If a peer reviewed article could be cited, it will be. 
  • 2. A How to Guide on how to evaluate findings. This include how to search for the actual studies, how to analyze the studies (research flaws)
  • 3. Research methods. It’s crucial to understand how studies are tested and set up. 

A few problems I see with this:

  1. When new people find your blog, most won’t know it’s “up to them” to find out if it’s a fact or a myth. Most people don’t actively visit blog home pages to read “disclaimers.” Many will simply read the “facts/myths” and reblog them thinking they’re all true.
  2. Because these “facts/myths” are usually a sentence long, they might, at times, be oversimplifications and misrepresentations of complex phenomena. Psychological findings are not always so simple that they can be described in one sentence.
  3. Even if you do write posts that explain how to read scholarly articles to interpret the references, most people won’t be able to see the articles if the journals charge subscription fees. And reading an abstract is not the same as reading an actual study. In other words, they won’t be able to do their own fact-checking if they can’t access the scholarly articles.

I think a better approach would be to flat out tell people when a post is a fact or a myth, then have them explain why. If someone disagrees, they can open up a discussion about why they think the post isn’t a fact or a myth. But that’s just my opinion.

I mean, what do people expect? There are tabs on that blog devoted to dreams and astrology…

Carl, your thoughts?

image

Yet, look at how many notes that blog gets. It reaches a lot of people. 

High-five for Sagan gif. But…about 1 in 4 Americans (29%) believe in astrology. I know people from all over the world use tumblr, but my gut tells me that percentage is much higher in tumblr. And the psychology tag is usually infested with dream interpretations.

I think most people who follow these “fact” blogs (and ours) are barely starting off with their studies in psychology. I remember when I took my intro class. I believed some of these things… like thinking that Freud’s theories were legit and still valid today.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say. I guess that people aren’t natural skeptics and need a little guidance.. 

Half of your post are false — Asked by bttys

psych2go:

lindz-or-nah:

psych2go:

Yep! So you have to be able to pick out which ones. In the future, I will be adding references to the posts and you guys will be responsible or discussing or sharing your perspectives on them :) 

How do you know if they are false tho? Some posts could be true to some while others think that the same post is false based on experience

  • That’s the beauty of it. Without knowing much about psychology and research methods, it’s hard to distinguish actual facts from pseudoscience. Hence, this blog aims to encourage discussions and skepticism on what’s posted. This will be accomplished in 3 ways: 
  • 1. Including source articles of the origin of the facts. If a peer reviewed article could be cited, it will be. 
  • 2. A How to Guide on how to evaluate findings. This include how to search for the actual studies, how to analyze the studies (research flaws)
  • 3. Research methods. It’s crucial to understand how studies are tested and set up. 

A few problems I see with this:

  1. When new people find your blog, most won’t know it’s “up to them” to find out if it’s a fact or a myth. Most people don’t actively visit blog home pages to read “disclaimers.” Many will simply read the “facts/myths” and reblog them thinking they’re all true.
  2. Because these “facts/myths” are usually a sentence long, they might, at times, be oversimplifications and misrepresentations of complex phenomena. Psychological findings are not always so simple that they can be described in one sentence.
  3. Even if you do write posts that explain how to read scholarly articles to interpret the references, most people won’t be able to see the articles if the journals charge subscription fees. And reading an abstract is not the same as reading an actual study. In other words, they won’t be able to do their own fact-checking if they can’t access the scholarly articles.

I think a better approach would be to flat out tell people when a post is a fact or a myth, then have them explain why. If someone disagrees, they can open up a discussion about why they think the post isn’t a fact or a myth. But that’s just my opinion.