Do You Think These Are Myths or Facts? – 4 Psychology Controversies

As you know, human behavior isn’t always constant, which can make researching it tricky. While well-trained scientists will always do their best to get accurate results, things can go wrong during research. The sample size can be small if there aren’t enough participants from the target group, or the method’s might not be optimal. It’s also possible that there is a false positive in the statistics, but more on that some other time. These might cause inconsistent results when the experiment is repeated. These factors, together with an unusual interpretation by others, might lead to persistent myths. Today we will discuss some persistent psychological myths and controversies.

  1. Power Posing: Placebo or Pretty Real?

As you know body language is pretty important. A lot of people feel that a good stance makes them feel more secure. But there are several explanations for this. One of them is a placebo effect; because you think it will work, it will have an effect. Another one is that it could be possible that your brain releases chemicals as a result of your stance, that make you feel more secure. An example could be testosterone. In a TED talk Amy Cuddy discussed research that would suggest that posing powerfully will really make you feel more powerful, and that it is not a placebo (Carney, Cuddy and Yap, 2010).

However, when other scientists repeated the experiment with five times as many participants, they found no significant effect. Particularly concerning the expected difference in the blood levels of certain hormones  (Ranehill, Dreber, Johanneson et al., 2015).

Reviewers of Cuddy’s TED talk and books seem to be behind the theory fully. Others think it’s just a very strong placebo. What do you think?


  1. Memory Schmemory

We often think of memories like little movies playing in our minds. It’s (probably, or likely) to be not true. It would not work because it would require an insane amount of accuracy very few of us canmanage. It’s been quite a popular topic of research, but our misconceptions about our own memory accuracy, might be best explained by the following video. In this videos the tv program Brain Games tests eye-witness accuracy by setting up a fake crime. By planting two influencers (who purposefully gave wrong answers) in the jury bench with witnesses, they test how our memory can be influenced by what the people around us say. This topic is actually very relevant, because judges and police officers often think that the more confident a witness is, the more likely it is that they are right. But is that true though? Watch the video and see for yourself. What do you think about this?

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  1. Does red really make you more attractive?

There are a number of studies focused on the colour of our clothing and whether it makes us more attractive or less attractive. An international 2010 study by Elliot et al. for example, found that red shirts would make us more attractive to mates. This was of course, tested in comparison to other colours. A 2016 study called “revisiting the red effect on attractiveness and sexual receptivity” found no such difference. They also researched slightly different factors, such as comparing the effects of long term and short term relationships. So research is inconclusive, do you think it helps, or that this is something we believe helps but actually makes no difference at all?

  1. You know that feeling when it’s almost like that painting’s eyes are following you around the room?

Gif: @analizapatitos

Well, some researchers hypothesised that this feeling of being watched might make you more likely to be honest or behave well (Bateson, Nettle, Roberts, 2006). They placed an honesty box in a university coffee room. Meaning that there was no-one behind the till, and that they could pay if or how much they wanted to). The results from this study suggested that people paid up to three times more for their coffee if the posters in the room had eyes on them, rather than a more neutral control image. However, a repetition of the study in 2011 with more participants found that there was no significant positive effect on honesty from having a poster’s eyes on you. Do you think this could make a difference? What do you think could have gone wrong in these studies for them to find such different effects?

So which of these do you think is still most widely believed? Did you like the article, and would you like more of this type of controversy centered content?

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