We have found more Psychomyths to expose in the second part to our previous post.
In a previous post, I wrote about various myths related to psychology that reseachers have busted. In this post, we have found more myths to debunk! Here they are.
Myth 1: Some People are Left Brained and Some are Right Brained
Are some people left-brained and others right-brained? This is another popular belief that has a certain grain of truth to it. It all began with the Roger Sperry, who shared the Nobel Prize in 1981, for landmark research on Split-Brain patients. These patients after surgery appeared deceptively normal but after Sperry tested them in the laboratory, it was found that that the two halves of their brains were working independently!
It was a remarkable finding but this led to a speculation whether this was true for even normal people. But that’s not the case as in the normal brain, as research has shown, the right and left hemispheres are constantly in communication with each other for even normal tasks. Overall, the two hemispheres are much more similar than different, research has argued.
Myth 2: Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP) is a Well-Established Scientific Phenomenon
Extra-sensory perception (ESP) is a phenomenon that was coined by Sir Richard Burton in 1870. It is known as knowledge or perception without the use of any of the five senses. It includes three capacities of (1) precognition (predicting the future), (2) telepathy (being able to read the mind), and (3) clairvoyance (able to know the existence of hidden or far away objects).
Interestingly, during the 1970s the U.S. Govt. actually spent around 20 million dollars on the program called “Stargate”, to hire such people in order to find useful military information about enemies. Goes without saying, the project did not yield any results and was stopped in 1995. This just shows the popularity of ESP.
In the 1990s, U.S national research council did an authoritative study and concluded that a case of psychic powers was extremely feeble. Many scientists have argued that for ESP to exist it would need to run counter to various established laws of physics related to the matter, time, and space.
Myth 3: Most People Experience a Midlife Crisis in their 40s
This is another myth taken from popular culture, especially films. A ‘midlife’ crisis is portrayed as a dramatic period of self-introspection and upheaval in a person’s life. The period is portrayed to be between the age of 40 and 60.
The term was coined in 1965 by Elliot Jacques. He described it as a compulsive desire to stay young. But studies across various culture have shown that people in the age bracket of 40-60 have actually felt more in control of their lives and expressed feelings of well-being when compared with other age brackets.
The reason could be because earlier decades of lives are usually one of struggle and people mostly set up their lives and their careers. Its after 40s one can enjoy a largely comfortable life.
Myth 4: Hypnosis is Useful for Retrieving Memories of Forgotten Events
Various surveys have shown that academicians and health professionals endorse and believe the authenticity of Hypnoanalysis. Hypnosis is a method that was promoted by early pioneers of psychology and psychiatry like Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet. Later various researchers believed that hypnosis can lead to unearthing some precious memories of forgotten past.
But modern-day researchers have argued that hypnosis either has no effect on memory but in fact it can produce errors while recalling or even false memories. Most studies have found that hypnosis leads exaggerated and unwarranted confidence in memories.
Controlled research studies have shown that hypnosis may be helpful when it comes to treating someone in pain or medical conditions, and as a therapy for anxiety etc. But largely it usually fosters false memories and studies have corroborated this.
Myth 5: Individuals Can Learn New Information While Asleep
Have you ever tried listening to an audio-book of a new language while you are asleep? In the hope that you can learn it while your sleeping? This is what is known as sleep-assisted-learning, that is learning while being asleep.
A study was conducted to test this and early results showed favorable signs. In the study, a group of sailors was exposed to Morse Code while they were asleep. The results showed that the sailors were able to master the Morse code faster than other sailors.
However, a problem arose later when it was found that the sailors under the study were never really asleep. In fact, in almost all the studies that showed positive effects of sleep-assisted-learning didn’t monitor if the subjects were actually asleep.
Recent studies in a more controlled environment have given almost no evidence to suggest that it works.
Myth 6: Subliminal Messages can Persuade People to Purchase Products
Does an advertisement with hidden messages influence your opinion about things? These hidden messages are known as subliminal messages. People widely in the advertising industry and psychology community believe that these messages have an influence on our behavior. But is that true?
As it is with various myths, this one also got debunked by researchers by undertaking various controlled studies to test the ability of these messages. So far, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that subliminal messages affect a purchaser’s decision or a voter’s choice. But this still quite popular among the advertising industry, especially among political campaigners.
Myth 7: When Dying, People Pass-Through Various Stages
You might have heard of the famous Kubler-Ross’s five stages of death – DABDA – Death, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Some people have also called it five stages of grief.
This is widely accepted in the medical and psychological community without question. It’s widely popular as it has been the subject of various films in Hollywood. The reason why this stage theory if popular because of its predictability over the unpredictable idea of death. The idea of neat five stages also gives a certain sense of peace for the griever.
However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that people go through these stages. Studies have shown that most people either jump through these stages. In some, the order is all mixed and acceptance comes first and then depression. In a study involving 200 people, who recently lost someone, acceptance was the predominant reaction rather than depression.
Dying or losing someone is not uniform and cannot follow a neat path. Everyone experiences death in their own unique way. Even Kubler-Ross said that our grief is as individual as our lives.
Myth 8: When in Doubt, Go with the Initial Hunch
There are various tests these days that we have to take, especially MCQs based tests. And one of the most accepted lore of test-taking practice is that if you’re not sure of an answer, then go with the original answer.
Across a large survey of college students, around 70% of students believe that changing their answers from initial answers won’t’ improve their score. So, tend to pick the initial answer. Around three-fourth believe changing the answer might end up lowering their score.
Its called the First Instinct Fallacy myth. The belief is quite widespread as various teachers and coaching institutes give this advice. But what does research say?
A large corpus of studies has shown that when students change their answers (after elimination method and erasure) they are more likely to improve their score and get a right answer. Other studies have shown that students who ignore instincts and hunches and change their answers, after calculations, tend to get a higher score than other students.
So, when in doubt, it’s best to not to trust our hunches. As they are just hunching and not reasoned or calculated decisions.
Myth 9: Teenage is a Time of Psychological Turmoil
Teenage, we all go through it or are going through it right now. The wonderful phase of self-discovery, be it of body or mind, is widely believed to one of great psychological turmoil. The belief is also popularised by various films which have stereotyped this age as the ‘terrible teen’ years.
Researchers, in order to investigate these claims, lay out three domains of teenage behavior: a. instability in mood, b. risky behavior, and c. conflicts with parents. A cross-cultural study has shown that the number of adolescents that go through such turmoil is very low.
Teenagers across South Asia, South East Asia, America and much of the Arab world largely go through the teenage normally and the above-mentioned behaviors are largely absent. So, no the teenager is not a phase of turmoil or angst but rather of self-discovery and new ideas that we all go through.
There you have it! Another round of psychopaths busted for your pleasure! What do you think about them? Did you also believe in any of these? And more importantly, have those beliefs shifted? Comment and let us know. Till then cheers and keep exploring yourself with Brainpundits!