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Psychology Myths: Some of the Top Myths You Might be Spreading

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

In a world where the field of psychology is rapidly evolving and becoming even more accessible to us, psychology has and continues to aid each of us in better understanding ourselves and others. But this same growth seems to allow for some misconceptions and myths to pass as psychological facts – some of which you may be spreading yourself. So here are the top ones that even I as a psychology student am guilty of believing:

We only use 10% of our brains 

After the movie Lucy (2014) starring the talented Scarlett Johansson if you’re anything like me, you were seriously convinced that we do in fact only use 10% of our brains. After that realization your next step was a quest to figure out how on earth you could access the rest of your brain (minus the drugs of course), only to be highly disappointed in learning that we, if healthy, actually use our entire brain even when we sleep. However, during certain tasks, some aspects of our brain become more active than others – though our brains technically do work at all times. Although this is proven, part of me still wonders if there is way more to my brain and capabilities than what is here at present, so I’ll hold onto my dream of accessing all my brain one day! 

Opposites attract 

This is a statement I have heard time and time again. I have had it said to me after a very poor choice in a partner not so long ago and I’ve said it to multiple people to explain relationships that don’t quite make “sense” in my own eyes. I even overheard it a mere two days ago while at a wine tasting with some friends after a lady seated next to us had one too many and was explaining her love life to us. However, the common phrase “opposites attract I guess” could not be farther from the truth. Here’s the science behind why: well, there is no science at all… At least none proving it true. However, studies conducted over the 1960s to early 2008s showed the complete opposite – that in fact, similarities to others are what attract us to them. Byrne (1961) showed that if we have twice as many things in common with another, we tend to like that person twice as much. So that person you’re attracted to that you think is so different to you may be more like you than you think.

In multiple-choice tests it’s best to stick to your first choice, right? 

Wrong! Studies have shown that often when one changes their answer from one to another, they are more likely to be changing their answer from an incorrect one to a correct one! So, during that next MCQ keep this in mind – however, don’t hold me to this!

Lie detector tests are accurate 

The Vanity Fair lie detector videos with stars like Tyler Perry, Dakota Johnson and Kevin Hart, to name a few, have become some of my favourite pass times when procrastinating university work. However, it has been shown that these tests have error rates as high as 40% and due to them only measuring one form of emotion, namely guilt, it becomes extremely difficult to vouch for their legitimacy. So next time you watch these videos (which I highly suggest you do) keep in mind that these stars may not be telling the whole truth and the test may be allowing them to get away with it.

Talking about your problems will ALWAYS help: 

Now take this one with a grain of salt and pay close attention to what is explained in busting this myth. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology, presented the “talking cure”, and this idea of talking to others about our struggles is something said and spread across many platforms. However, this can be damaging when a person is not emotionally ready to talk about what is or what has been affecting them. Although it has been shown that talking about your problems can help, it is not guaranteed. Therefore, next time you or someone you know is struggling remember to be patient with yourself and others.

Most of us undergo a midlife crisis: 

Growing up there have been two things I’ve been not looking forward to menopause and the dreaded midlife crisis. Much to my pleasure, however, it has been shown we don’t all go through a midlife crisis when we reach our 40s where we supposedly spend way too much money on things we don’t need or make drastic life changes. It has been shown that about 10% of the population may undergo one but if we are in a stable place it is highly unlikely and our 40s and 50s go by smoothly. However, when you reach this age be sure to still blame your irrational spending habits on this phenomenon – I know I will!  

And that was some psychology myths that you may be spreading busted! If you’re looking to read up on some more fascinating myths and the real science behind them, be sure to check out the book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconception about Human Behavior written in 2009 written by Scott O. Lilienfield, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and Barry Beyerstein. For now, that’s all from me and I hope you loved reading this as much as I loved writing it! 

Hey! My name is Lekia Collene Thaver (lct) and I am a 3rd year BA student majoring in Psychology, English and Sociology a combination that continually challenges my thought processes about the world and the people in it. My free time is spent writing about anything and everything and when I am not lost in my imagination, I am watching fast cars go around in oddly shaped circles or I'm exploring new places in and around Cape Town with my friends and family.