Walk into any bookstore and you will find racks and racks of books claiming to cure any number of major psychological problems with easy solutions. Want to lose weight? Try hypnosis. Want to get rich? Just visualize your goals and eventually you will achieve whatever you want.
The truth is that the mind is an incredibly powerful and complex instrument and we are only beginning to learn its the true potential. Although psychology may assist in explaining our rational decision-making and emotional makeup, there is still plenty of guesswork out there. Below are five commonly believed myths about psychology.
5 Psychology Myths
- Subliminal Advertisements Work. While advertisers everywhere would like to believe this is true, there is no scientific data to back up the theory that split-second messages placed in advertisements motivate consumers to want a certain product. This belief stems from a poorly researched, shoddily executed test by market researcher James Vicay, in which subliminal messages for Coca-Cola and popcorn were flashed on a movie screen at a drive-in theater. Further studies have revealed that subliminal messages have little to no effect on a person’s rational decision making.
- The 10 Percent Theory. You’ve probably heard that humans only use 10 percent of their brain’s capability. This is simply false. If we only used such a small amount, we would be little more than comatose.
While the cerebrum is unnecessary for basic survival responses, we still use far more than 10 percent of our brains. Beware of self-help gurus who promote tapping into the “unused” portions of the psyche.
- People Who Are Homophobic Are Really Self-Loathing Gay People. Closer to the truth is that people who are homophobic — and anybody else with prejudices — are the product of lifelong conditioning which teaches them to associate negative feelings with a particular group of people. These negative feelings are taught and reinforced by the prejudiced persons’ peer groups. Bigotry has a tendency to reproduce in homogeneous groups who aren’t exposed to individuals beyond their particular subset.
- Just Let It Out! (On An Inanimate Object). Ever get so angry that smashing something or putting your fist through a wall seems like the only way to release all your anger? Researchers say that venting your problems through physical violence only makes the problem worse and can lead to a dangerously high cardiovascular rate. So next time you feel like punching a pillow, just calm down and breathe.
- Just Think Happy Thoughts. This is a myth perpetuated by a plethora of self-help books. The truth is, focusing on solely positive thoughts drains our mental energy, thus allowing the negative thoughts that have us worried to take over our thinking. The best thing to do when we are experiencing pessimistic thoughts is to simply talk it over with a friend, confidant, or professional counselor. The act of letting it out to another person does far more for an individual than forced positive thinking.
For more in-depth information on debunked pop psychology, a variety of online education websites offer courses on the subject.