Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker
Psychology is everywhere in popular culture. You will find articles in magazines about what happiness is meant to be or about love and friendship. Psychology is all about you, your personality traits, how to improve your social skills or how to deal with certain situations, that is probably the main reason why psychology topics are so popular. We want to know more about who we are and how to be better and more successful. Some psychology topics became so popular and so inaccurate at the same time. We list below a few common misconceptions about psychology that many still believe are true.
The myth about the importance of dreams and how they are revealing our unconscious desires comes from Freud. Sigmund Freud is a very important and relevant figure in psychotherapy, but he got a few things wrong. Dreams are not telling us much about who we are as a person and they can’t be used as significant tool in the process of therapy.
As we have all seen in the movies, a lie detector or polygraph is an instrument that measures heart rate, breathing and skin conductivity while a person is being asked a series of questions. A polygraph is actually extremely inaccurate. Results from a polygraph can be used in a court only if both sides agree to use those results. The assumption behind the polygraph is that if someone is lying, he will feel stressed, but in reality many people don’t feel that way. Compulsive liars won’t feel stress and their heart rate won’t change when they are lying or telling the truth.
- Opposites attract
The romantic belief about love between a young woman with manners and a tough guy from the streets doesn’t usually have a happy ending. We are usually looking for a long term relationship with someone who shares our life values. He or she doesn’t need to have the same hobbies as you do, but we need someone who shares our values about raising children, handling finances, religion or anything else that is relevant to us. Relationships from Hollywood movies usually don’t last too long in reality.
- Mid-life Crisis
There is no scientific evidence that a mid-life crisis as something that is common for men when they reach middle age. People in their thirties or forties usually know who they are and what they want. They have a steady job, relationship, family and children. Even if they don’t have everything previously listed, they should know how to deal with life and how to handle pressure. The most stressful period for most of us is when we are young and when we are dealing with adult problems for the first time.
People are usually familiar with one form of amnesia – retrograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is when a person can’t remember their past, but it’s still able to build new memories. Most of us are not familiar with arguably more difficult forms of amnesia – anterograde amnesia. People with anterograde amnesia are able to remember their past, but they can’t form new long term memories.
- Schizophrenia is multiple personality disorder
Schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality) are two very different disorders. In popular culture schizophrenia is presented as a multiple personality disorder and it’s amazing how many people believe that these two disorders are the same thing. People with schizophrenia may hear voices or not, they may believe that you can read their mind or that the government is plotting to kill them, but they don’t have multiple personalities.
- I have multitasking skills
You have multitasking skills? Our brain is not capable to do two highly engaging tasks at the same time. We are able to switch really fast from one task to another, but our brain can only do one thing at a time. In modern pop culture multitasking is a very desirable skill in the hiring process, but many don’t realize that multitasking is not efficient. Yes, you can listen to music while you’re working, but if you try to talk to someone and write something totally unrelated at the same time, you won’t be able to focus on both tasks and be efficient.
- Psychologist – Psychotherapist
There is a big difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist. Someone with the degree in psychology is not a psychotherapist. To become a psychotherapist you need a medical background and a degree (usually five years) in a certain field of psychotherapy. Only a psychotherapist is eligible to prescribe medication, psychologists don’t have a medical degree and therefore they are not qualified to prescribe drugs to their clients.
- Visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner
Do you learn better when material is presented visually to you or do you learn better when material is presented to you in an audio format? It depends on what you are learning. An audio format will work better for you if you are learning a new language. You can’t learn how to swim or how to drive a car, if you read about it. Which learning style should we use? What learning style do we prefer? The answer to this question totally depends on what we are trying to learn, not on our preferred learning style.
- We use only 10% of our brain
We don’t have silent areas in our brain and we all use way more than 10 % of our brain. Psychologist William James once wrote that most of us use 10% of our intellectual potential. Somehow this statement was translated that we use only 10% of our brain. If this statement was accurate, we wouldn’t need 90% of our brain, right? In reality we use most of our brain power even for mundane tasks that we do every day.