To me, psychology is one of the most difficult sciences to study, for its concepts are highly abstract, qualitative and hard to reach. The inability to directly peer into another human’s mind is a restraint psychologists must overcome, but because of these difficulties, many myths arise from this strange science. So, this article will be discussing my favourite well-known myths that some of the public has taken for facts.
- We only use 10% of our brains.
Where did this lie come from then? The idea could have originated from Sir William James, one of the earliest psychologists, when he wrote a book called The Energies of Men in 1908. In this book on page 12, he states that, “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” Or this myth’s root could have been planted when Karl Lashley removed large parts of rats brains and showed that they could still relearn many previous skills in the 1920s. This could be misinterpreted to say, “The rat can still function while missing large parts of its brain. Therefore those parts were unused.”
Even though removing small parts of the human brain can have devastating effects on the person’s behaviour (that’s why neurosurgeons must map the brain out very carefully), people still believe in this myth even though there is evidence de-bunking it.
- Listening to Mozart makes you smarter.
This myth has sparked all sorts of attempts to make children smarter. Parents started to schedule routines of when they would play their baby Mozart, farmers even started to play it to their cows too!
The origin of this myth started with a study done in 1991, where psychologists took in only 36 participants who weren’t even children-they were young adult students, for their experiment. They split the number of participants into 3 groups where one listened to Mozart, one listened to a relaxation tape and the other sat in silence. They were then asked complete a series of mental tasks. Generally, the group who listened to Mozart did better at the tasks.
Contrary to the myth, numerous studies have actually shown that the rise in IQ is due to brain arousal. And it works with any kind of music or cognitive stimulation, not just Mozart. Also contrary to the myth, the heightened intelligence only lasts for about 15 minutes, and is not a way to enhance life-long intelligence.
- The Rorschach ink-blot can be used to analyse people.
This is a set of test built to detect metal disorders or deduce characteristics of someone’s personality, based on how they interpret the ink blots. It was first created in 1921 when Hermann Rorschach published a book of ink blots entitled Psychodiagnostik. It was used as a tool for psychologists and was widespread during the 1950s and 60s, but as time went on, people began to question the reliability of these test.
The truth is, when you get to the very base of this theory, you can see that Rorschach had little to no evidence to back the tests up. Scott Lilienfield, an associate professor of psychology at Emory College, one of the many psychologists who doubt this test and co-author of the book What’s Wrong With Rorschach?, has studied and surveyed over 50 years of evidence for the ink blot test, but has concluded that it is “weak at best and non-existent at worst”. These tests are no longer used by today’s modern day psychologists.