In their excellent book, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, Lilienfeld and colleagues (2010) investigate popular psychology myths. In addition to addressing these prevalent myths, the authors briefly discuss some “difficult to believe” psychological findings. Some of the findings include:
Our brains contain approximately 3 million miles of neural connections.
People suffering from extreme forms of anterograde amnesia, an inability to consciously recall new information, often display implicit memories without being able to display them consciously. As an example, they may show a negative emotional reaction when interacting with a doctor who has been rude to them, even though they can’t recall meeting the doctor.
People who hold a pencil with their teeth find cartoons funnier than people who hold a pencil with their lips. The “facial feedback hypothesis” offers an explanation for this seemingly strange finding. In the facial feedback hypothesis, the facial muscles relay temperature information to the brain, which affects our emotions. Research shows that when pronouncing words with a “k” sound (which leads us to mimic smiling), such as kooky, quack and wacky, we have a tendency to laugh.
Research derived from U.S. Census reports reveals that a large number of people live in places that have names similar to their own first names. One explanation for this is may be ascribed to implicit egotism. Implicit egotism means that people are unconsciously attracted to people, places and things that resemble them.
People with firm handshakes are more likely than others to be emotionally expressive and extroverted, and less likely than others to be shy and neurotic.
In isolated areas of some Asian countries, individuals suffer from a psychological condition called “koro.” Females suffering from koro often believe their breasts are vanishing; males believe their penis and testicles are disappearing. Koro is spread by contagion.
There is research showing that dogs resemble their owners. In one study, it was found that judges matched the faces of dogs to dog owners at significantly better than chance levels. However, this was only true for purebreds, and not mixed breeds.
In a recent study, two researchers asked subjects to hold either a cup of iced coffee or a cup of hot coffee as a favor, then, later they were asked to rate a made-up (not real) person on various traits. Those who had held the warm cup of coffee were significantly more likely than those who held the iced coffee to rate the made-up person higher on warm personality traits such as caring, generosity and the like.
These strange finding are corroborated by scientific evidence and they remind us to question our so-called common sense.
Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S.J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B.L. (2010). 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Photo by Q. Thomas Bower, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.