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4 Myths about Psychology, Debunked

At Psychology Consultants, Inc, we know all about how fun and fascinating psychology is! We spend a lot of time researching psychological studies and staying current on emerging psychological trends.

Today's blog focuses on some of the prevailing myths of psychology. You've heard that saying that we only use 10% of our brains, right? It's actually a myth! Or how about the one where listening to classical music makes you smarter? Nope. It's a myth.

Here are a few of the most common myths we hear on a regular basis:

MYTH: We only use 10% of our brains.

While it's true that many of us do not use our full potential, the 10% myth is actually false. This myth is so far perpetuated and ingrained in our culture that many people believe it to be true, but it is not! It's hard to pinpoint the exact source, but believe us when we say that you would be severely incapacitated if you were only using 10% of your brain!

According to an article in Scientific American, we use virtually every part of our brains and even when we're asleep, most of the brain is active almost all the time.

MYTH: Listening to classical music makes you smarter.

Here's a perfect example of people drawing their own conclusions to scientific experiments. A 1993 study conducted by three researchers investigated the spatial-temporal reasoning skills of participants after being exposed to Mozart, verbal relaxation instructions or complete silence. The participants who listened to Mozart scored higher on tests that measured their reasoning and problem solving skills.

Hold off on buying that box set of Mozart for now. Here's the rub: the participants only did well on the tests for about 15 minutes. After the results were published, many people interpreted the study's findings incorrectly and came to the conclusion that listening to Mozart as increases general IQ.

MYTH: Old age is associated with memory loss and senility.

Because we regularly deal with aging populations at PCI, we often hear that senior citizens are "senile," "cantankerous," "demented," "helpless" and "set in their ways," along with many other adjectives that group all seniors into broad categories that don't fit for each individual. What most people don't understand is that a lot of these symptoms describe depression or aging concerns that are easy to chalk up to dementia or other diagnoses that many people attribute to this population. This type of thinking is dangerous because it further perpetuates the psychological mythology of aging.

This is much more harmful than we can imagine. Just think about how this age group is represented in books, movies and television. It's no wonder we envision this population as stereotypically having certain characteristics. It's important to remember that as we age, slight memory loss is normal, but not all memory loss is created equal. Dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer's most frequently affects the elderly, but some people can develop the disease in their 30s or 40s.

MYTH: Individuals on the autism spectrum have higher than average intelligence.

Here's another one of those myths that many people understand to be true for all individuals in a certain category. When considering autism, many people tend to think of the movie Rain Man, where Dustin Hoffman's character exhibits remarkable intellectual capabilities. While it is true that some individuals on the autism spectrum could be considered savants, it's rare. Only about 10% of autistic individuals are considered true savants—those who demonstrate above average capabilities in art, music and arithmetic.

Did any of these myths surprise you?

There are so many myths floating around about psychology and psychological studies. Because magazines and online articles cannot possibly cover all of the scientific data that goes into current psychological studies, we're usually fed the bite-sized, simplified versions of psychological studies, which only carry a morsel of truth and let people come to their own conclusions.

The great thing about the scientific method is that it's not biased, unlike human beings who are inherently biased. We can't help but see patterns where there are none or make meanings out of meaningless occurrences. That's where science steps in and shows us that no, there is no such thing as "beginner's luck" or that correlation does not necessarily imply causation—an idea that often persists in popular psychology.