Although significant breakthroughs in neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry have changed the way we look at behaviors, mental illnesses and common psychological issues, many people are still buying into a lot of myths that sound good, but simply don’t add up when faced with the latest scientific research and evidence.
Even though a lot of people these days believe that there are more and more autistic children in the world, the truth is that there simply are a lot more labels being put on mental and emotional disorders today than there were one or two decades ago – which could certainly make it seem like there’s an epidemic.
A modern myth about psychology that everybody believes in famously states that “opposites attract”. Actually, modern research, such as the Buston and Emlen study conducted in 2003, shows that people who have the same ideals about health, beauty, commitment or happiness, as well as those interested in the same hobbies, are more likely to end up together - and stay together.
Polygraphs measure factors like blood pressure, skin conductivity or respiration, and are claimed by many to have 99% accuracy. The reality is that no machine can really tell if someone is lying or not, and psychological reactions are not universal.
A lot of well-known myths about psychology and psychiatry that everyone buys into have to do with Sigmund Freud. One of them stated that Freud was a master hypnotist. However, not only was he unable to hypnotize any of his patients, but the effect of his piercing gaze seemed to make patients feel uneasy, rather than calming them down.
Another myth, this time created by Freud, proposed that people’s personalities are more or less set in plaster by the age of 30, and most remain stuck in versions of childhood or adolescent personalities. Years of research have debunked this myth as well, showing that personalities are much more diverse and malleable throughout all periods of life.
New Age theories point to predominantly left brain thinkers as being more logical and analytical, while right brain thinking is associated with creativity and intuition. The brain is more complex than we can imagine, though, and MRI tests have shown both hemispheres used to an equal extent by most subjects.
In the world of psychiatry, many mental illnesses are associated with brain disorders. Recovery, therefore, is often seen as out of the question. This myth is more in line with psychiatric dogma, rather than reality, since even in the case of schizophrenia, around 80% of sufferers have usually been found to show significant signs of recovery.
Probably the most myths about psychology have to do with stress management. One of these myths says that denial is not a good strategy for coping with stress, and you have to confront the situation head on to get results. When a problem is difficult or nearly impossible to solve right away, however, temporary denial and a shifting of focus to more positive aspects of life can be a much better coping strategy.
When you look at these myths about psychology and psychiatry, it’s easy to see why they would seem so intuitive. Do you believe there might be some truth to some of them? What other myths have you heard of that might be worth sharing?
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