50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior / Edition 1

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50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology uses popular myths as a vehicle for helping students and laypersons to distinguish science from pseudoscience.
• Uses common myths as a vehicle for exploring how to distinguish factual from fictional claims in popular psychology
• Explores topics that readers will relate to, but often misunderstand, such as "opposites attract," "people use only 10% of their brains," and handwriting reveals your personality
• Provides a "mythbusting kit" for evaluating folk psychology claims in everyday life
• Teaches essential critical thinking skills through detailed discussions of each myth
• Includes over 200 additional psychological myths for readers to explore Contains an Appendix of useful Web Sites for examining psychological myths
• Features a postscript of remarkable psychological findings that sound like myths but that are true
• Engaging and accessible writing style that appeals to students and lay readers alike

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Written in an accessible and entertaining style, the book examinesa wide range of myths from all areas of psychology. . .Accordingly, the book is a much-needed antidote to the avalanche ofmisinformation that masquerades as psychology and should berequired reading for anyone with a passing interest in psychologyor, for that matter, the human condition." (Department ofPsychology, 1 June 2011)

"Not only does the book illustrate just how often our intuitionsare wrong, it also shows us how - in comparison to the truth -uninteresting they are. Shallow judgments imply over-confidence,assumption and monotomy. Assuming that you know something prior togiving any consideration to where that knowledge comes from is amistake for many reasons but perhaps most of all because suchpresumption precludes surprise. To be surprised - shocked,provoked, scandalized - is a pleasure. . . 50 Great Myths ofPopular Psychology tells us that we need urgently to deal with ourtendency to judge books by their covers. And just maybe, ratherthan considering any idealistic appeal to our rationalism, weshould deal with this problem by considering an inversion similarto Kubrick's: for now at least, when it comes to presentingdiscoveries about the mind, we ought not to try in vain to changeour nature - our tendency towards prejudice - but instead dosomething simpler: tell better stories, and design better covers."(The Skeptic, 2011)

"As you can tell from my reactions above I found this a veryinformative book and I'm only touching on particular things with mycomments. If you're a writer, this book should be read post-hasteso you don't keep repeating things you thought were true andobviously aren't. For everyone else, the revelations should makeyou sit up and take heed of what not to be taken in by."(SFCrowsnest.co.uk, 1 May 2011)

"This would be an ideal book to have in offices where peoplehave to spend some time waiting for appointments." (EducationDigest, November 2010)

"This book would suit educators involved in study skills andcritical thinking courses who might be looking for some new angleswith which to update or spruce up their courses. It should beequally digestible to the A-level student and the first-yearundergraduate."  (PLATH, December 2010)

"I love 50 Great Myths and used it in my winter seminar. This should be on every psychologist's shelf." (Dartmouth AlumniMagazine, October 2010)

"This is a refreshing and fun look at many of the concepts thathave been accepted as fact by our popular culture." (Book EndBabes, September 01, 2010)

"At the end of each sub-section covering an individual myth is alist of anti-factoids about related matters and their factualantidotes. By this means a considerable range of topics iscovered." (Education Review, July 2010)

"Maybe we should pay more attention to books like 50 Great Mythsof Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions aboutHuman Nature. The four psychology professors who authored thisenlightening book are up against the roughly 3,500 self-helptitles, a lot of them based on false premises, that are publishedin the U.S. every year." (Poe'sDeadly Daughters, April2010)

"Scott Lilienfeld and his team ... have a history in delvinginto the dark myths of science, and pseudoscience ... .They areback. As with their other works, these authors manage to write wellfor ease of reading so many facts, and do so with theircharacteristic humor and cutting edge science. This book is[an] illumination, and vital reading for professionals and evenlaymen." (Metapsychology, June 2010)

"Who should read this book? Anyone interested in psychology andor the scientific method.  The book is written in an easy toread fashion, is well referenced and includes a wide array oftopics.  The book teaches the value of critical thinking, andtells us it's all right to question authority. In conclusion, 50Great Myths of Popular Psychology is a must read for psychologymajors, therapists and anyone who wishes to gain knowledge aboutthe diverse field of psychology.  I wish this book wasavailable when I was studying psychology in college." (Basil& Spice (Jamie Hale), May 2010)

"Popular psychology is a prolific source of myths. A new bookdoes an excellent job of mythbusting: 50 Great Myths of PopularPsychology. Some myths I had swallowed whole and the book'scarefully presented evidence made me change my mind. They cover 50myths in depth, explaining their origins, why people believe them,and what the published research has to say about the claims.Everything is meticulously documented with sources listed. Theauthors have done us a great service by compiling all thisinformation in a handy, accessible form, by showing how sciencetrumps common knowledge and common sense, and by teaching us how toquestion and think about what we hear. I highly recommend it."(Dr. Harriet Hall for Skeptic Magazine, February2010, and ScienceBasedMedicine.org, November2009)

"50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology is written in an engagingstyle and is valuable for both professionals and the generalpublic. I highly recommend it." (Skeptical Inquirer,February 2010)

"Delightful and important book ... .This is a fine tool forteaching critical thinking. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology ismuch more than an entertaining put-down of popular misconceptions.Any psychologist can put [this book] to good use.Certainly teachers can use it as a supplement to aid in teachingcritical thinking and to suggest ideas for research on othermyths.We can give it to family members and friends who are curiousabout what psychology has to contribute and might themselves engagein some myth busting." (PsycCritiques, January 2010)

"If you are familiar with other books by the same authors, youknow that the writing style is incredibly engaging andeasy-to-read, making the book accessible to those with littleknowledge of psychology and well as those with considerableeducation in the field. While we certainly won't stop combatingclinical psychology myths here at PBB, it's always exciting to comeacross like-minded folks also providing valuable material!"(Psychotherapy Brown Bag, October 2009)

"50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology is a fascinating book, andwhile reading, I cheered the authors on. If you have questionedscience as some of us have, this book will reassure you that yourthinking was perfectly logical and correct. 50 Great Myths ofPopular Psychology clarifies things about which I have alwayswondered, but never challenged. Myths about aging, memory,learning, emotions and motivation, and mental illness are among thesubjects covered.  The reading is enlightening, refreshing andinteresting.You don't have to be a Ph.D, or even a student ofpsychology to enjoy this book.  It's is written in languageall can understand and the information is easily digested."(Basil & Spice, October 2009)

"Scott Lilienfeld and his coauthors explore the gulf betweenwhat millions of people say is so and the truth. Some of thesemyths are just plain fascinating." (US News and WorldReport, October 2009)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405131117
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/16/2010
  • Series: Great Myths of Psychology Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott O. Lilienfeld is a Professor of Psychology at EmoryUniversity. He is a recipient of the 1998 David Shakow Early CareerAward for Distinguished Contributions to Clinical Psychology fromDivision 12 (Society for Clinical Psychology) of the APA, pastpresident of the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology, anda Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Dr.Lilienfeld's principal areas of research are personality disorders,psychiatric classification and diagnosis, pseudoscience in mentalhealth, and the teaching of psychology.

Steven Jay Lynn is a Professor of Psychology at the StateUniversity of New York at Binghamton. He is past President of theAPA’s Division of Psychological Hypnosis, and the recipientof the Chancellor's Award of the SUNY for Scholarship and CreativeActivities. His major areas of research include hypnosis andmemory.

John Ruscio is an Associate Professor of Psychology atThe College of New Jersey. His scholarly interests includequantitative methods for psychological research and thecharacteristics of pseudoscience that distinguish subjects withinand beyond the fringes of psychological science.

Barry Beyerstein (the late) was Professor of Psychologyat Simon Fraser University and chair of the British ColumbiaSkeptics Society. He was Associate Editor of the ScientificReview of Alternative Medicine, and he co-authored manyarticles in the Skeptical Inquirer and professionaljournals.

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Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction The Wide World of Psychomythology 1

1 Brain Power Myths about the Brain and Perception 21

#1 Most People Use Only 10% of Their Brain Power 21

#2 Some People Are Left-Brained, Others Are Right-Brained 25

#3 Extrasensory Perception Is a Well-Established ScientificPhenomenon 29

#4 Visual Perceptions Are Accompanied by Tiny Emissions from theEyes 33

#5 Subliminal Messages Can Persuade People to Purchase Products36

2 From Womb to Tomb Myths about Development and Aging45

#6 Playing Mozart’s Music to Infants Boosts TheirIntelligence 45

#7 Adolescence Is Inevitably a Time of Psychological Turmoil49

#8 Most People Experience a Midlife Crisis in Their 40s or Early50s 52

#9 Old Age Is Typically Associated with IncreasedDissatisfaction and Senility 56

#10 When Dying, People Pass through a Universal Series ofPsychological Stages 60

3 A Remembrance of Things Past Myths about Memory 65

#11 Human Memory Works like a Tape Recorder or Video Camera, andAccurately Records the Events
We’ve Experienced 65

#12 Hypnosis is Useful for Retrieving Memories of ForgottenEvents 69

#13 Individuals Commonly Repress the Memories of TraumaticExperiences 73

#14 Most People with Amnesia Forget All Details of Their EarlierLives 78

4 Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks Myths about Intelligence andLearning 83

#15 Intelligence Tests Are Biased against Certain Groups ofPeople 83

#16 If You’re Unsure of Your Answer When Taking a Test,It’s Best to Stick with Your Initial Hunch 87

#17 The Defining Feature of Dyslexia Is Reversing Letters 89

#18 Students Learn Best When Teaching Styles Are Matched toTheir Learning Styles 92

5 Altered States Myths about Consciousness 100

#19 Hypnosis Is a Unique “Trance” State that Differsin Kind from Wakefulness 100

#20 Researchers Have Demonstrated that Dreams Possess SymbolicMeaning 104

#21 Individuals Can Learn Information, like New Languages, whileAsleep 108

#22 During “Out-of-Body” Experiences, People’sConsciousness Leaves Their Bodies 110

6 I’ve Got a Feeling Myths about Emotion and Motivation116

#23 The Polygraph (“Lie Detector”) Test Is anAccurate Means of Detecting Dishonesty 116

#24 Happiness Is Determined Mostly by Our External Circumstances122

#25 Ulcers Are Caused Primarily or Entirely by Stress 126

#26 A Positive Attitude Can Stave off Cancer 129

7 The Social Animal Myths about Interpersonal Behavior135

#27 Opposites Attract: We Are Most Romantically Attracted toPeople Who Differ from Us 135

#28 There’s Safety in Numbers: The More People Present atan Emergency, the Greater the Chance that Someone Will Intervene139

#29 Men and Women Communicate in Completely Different Ways143

#30 It’s Better to Express Anger to Others than to Hold Itin 147

8 Know Thyself Myths about Personality 153

#31 Raising Children Similarly Leads to Similarities in TheirAdult Personalities 153

#32 The Fact that a Trait Is Heritable Means We Can’tChange It 158

#33 Low Self-Esteem Is a Major Cause of Psychological Problems162

#34 Most People Who Were Sexually Abused in Childhood DevelopSevere Personality Disturbances in Adulthood 166

#35 People’s Responses to Inkblots Tell Us a Great Dealabout Their Personalities 171

#36 Our Handwriting Reveals Our Personality Traits 175

9 Sad, Mad, and Bad Myths about Mental Illness 181

#37 Psychiatric Labels Cause Harm by Stigmatizing People 181

#38 Only Deeply Depressed People Commit Suicide 186

#39 People with Schizophrenia Have Multiple Personalities189

#40 Adult Children of Alcoholics Display a Distinct Profile ofSymptoms 192

#41 There’s Recently Been a Massive Epidemic of InfantileAutism 195

#42 Psychiatric Hospital Admissions and Crimes Increase duringFull Moons 201

10 Disorder in the Court Myths about Psychology and the Law209

#43 Most Mentally Ill People Are Violent 209

#44 Criminal Profiling Is Helpful in Solving Cases 212

#45 A Large Proportion Of Criminals Successfully Use theInsanity Defense 216

#46 Virtually All People Who Confess to a Crime Are Guilty of It220

11 Skills and Pills Myths about Psychological Treatment227

#47 Expert Judgment and Intuition Are the Best Means of MakingClinical Decisions 227

#48 Abstinence Is the Only Realistic Treatment Goal forAlcoholics 232

#49 All Effective Psychotherapies Force People to Confront the“Root” Causes of Their Problems in Childhood 236

#50 Electroconvulsive (“Shock”) Therapy Is aPhysically Dangerous and Brutal Treatment 239

Postscript Truth is Stranger than Fiction 247


Recommended Websites for Exploring Psychomythology 253

References 255

Index 319

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2010


    I am immensely enjoying this book, even if I have to rush through it during the break between semesters!

    The introduction provided interesting background material on how mental health myths began. However, the first several myths have also demonstrated the negative impact of stigma and its sustainability over so many years based on societal views. I have decided that knowing how they began, and the significance of what they infer to others, is important in order to combat their negative influence.

    I definitely recommend this book to anyone working within the mental health field, but also to those who have a general interest in how myths and legends begin, as well as sorting out the truth from the falsehoods.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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