What misconceptions do many people have about the science of behavior?
Psychology is one of the disciplines about which more myths circulate, partly because its subject of study is interesting for the general public and partly because, given the versatility of mental processes, all kinds of bizarre theories can be “invented” about how our brain works.
Myths of current psychology
In this chapter we will review some of the most widespread myths of psychology and see why they are false.
1. Dreams have a hidden meaning
One of the most widespread ideas about the functioning of mental processes is that dreams have a way of being interpreted that portrays our way of thinking, our fears and our desires.
This myth, which draws directly from the psychoanalytic theories born with Sigmund Freud, is based only on beliefs that have not been proven, so there is no reason to suppose that dreams mean something in particular beyond the interpretation that each one wants to give them starting from their own creative power.
2. Most of the psychological problems are solved expressing them
It is very common to think that the task of psychotherapists is simply to be there to listen to the problems that the patient tells them, and that the fact of verbally expressing these problems produces a feeling of well-being that is the foundation of the solution offered by psychology.
However, we must not forget that a large part of the reasons why people go to the psychologist have to do with specific objective and material factors that will not disappear simply because they are talked about. Situations of family tension, eating disorders, gambling addiction, phobias… all of them exist because there is a dynamic of interaction between the person and the elements of their environment that reproduces itself and is maintained over time, regardless of the mode in which the person experiences or interprets it
3. There is a rational brain and an emotional brain
There is also the myth that two overlapping brains live inside our heads: a rational brain and an emotional brain. This has a small part of truth, since the areas of the brain closest to the brainstem and the limbic system intervene more directly in the mental processes related to emotional states if we compare them with areas of the brain surface such as the lobe front, but it is still a simplification.
What really happens is that all parts of the brain are working together both in those processes related to the emotional and in those related to “rational” thinking, to the point that it is practically impossible to know if a pattern of activation of neurons is rational or based on emotions.
4. We use only 10% of the brain
This myth enjoys great popularity, and yet it is absurd in several ways. In the first place, when we talk about this hidden potential of 10% of our brain, many times the affirmations based on the material (the way in which our body really works) are interestedly confused with those referring to our “hidden potential” as something more abstract and based on the philosophy of life that we follow.
This makes it easy to “throw the stone and hide your hand”, that is, to affirm things presumably based on scientific knowledge and, when questioned, simply pass them off as ideas about life worth living, the way in the one that we can find ourselves, etc.
To learn more about why everything we know about brain function contradicts the 10% myth, you can read this article.
5. Subliminal messages make you buy things
The idea that an advertising team can make us feel the impulse to buy a specific product by introducing some “hidden” frames in a video or some letters in an image has not only been unproven, but is based on an experiment, the James Vicary and Coca-Cola, which never came into being as such, Vicary himself admitted.
6. The interpretation of someone’s drawings serves to evaluate their personality
Analyzing people’s drawings is only useful when exploring very specific diseases, such as heminegligence , in which the left half of what is perceived is ignored (and therefore the left side of drawings left unfinished). In other words, projective tests, such as those in which someone’s drawings are analyzed, are not used to evaluate details about people’s personalities and, beyond individual opinions about therapists who apply them, under the magnifying glass of studies. that analyze a multitude of results have never been proven effective.
The meta-analyzes that have been carried out on these tests point to their little or no usefulness, among other things because there is no single way in which a drawing can be interpreted: for something it is a product of creativity and therefore they escape to preconceived schemes.
7. Hypnosis allows you to control someone’s will
The hypnosis seems to be nothing short of a magical power that makes someone trained in these techniques can handle at will the body of others, but the reality is far from this very marketiniana and spectacular view.
The truth is that hypnosis is fundamentally based on suggestion and the degree to which the person is willing to participate in the technique. Someone who does not want to be hypnotized will not be influenced by hypnosis.
8. Personality is assigned during youth
It is true that the first years of development are fundamental and that the things that happen to us in them can leave a mark difficult to erase in relation to our way of acting and perceiving things, but this should not be exaggerated.
Important aspects of the personality can continue to change beyond adolescence and young adulthood in a way similar to what happens to Walter White in Breaking Bad (although not always for the worse, of course). At the end of the day, our brain is constantly changing depending on what we are living through, even in old age.