Monday, January 27, 2014

50 myths of popular psychology

This book 2010 by Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S. J. Ruscio, J. and Beyerstein, B.L. came up several times in the reference notes section of the Hattie and Yate’s book ‘visible learning and the science of learning summarised in last week's blog.
The book is in the CPIT library, so dipping in and out of the book over several days provided for some interesting updates of some of my pre/mis-conceptions and food for thought on how to progress with work completed last year on the ‘learning a trade’ project.

In the introduction, the 10 sources of how myths occur are discussed. These sources are efficiency of ‘word of mouth’ information sources; human desire for easy answers and quick fixes; our selective perception and memory; inference of causation from correlation; ‘after this, therefore because of this’ approach to reasoning; exposure to biased samples; reasoning by representativeness; misleading film and media portrayals; exaggeration of kernels of truth; and terminological confusion.

The myths are collated into 11 sections. The following sections are of most interest to educators:
Section 1 on brain power has 5 myths. 2 myths – most people only use 10% of their brain power and some people are left brained, others right brained – would be most relevant. We use large %age of our brains at all times and both brain hemispheres work in synchrony.

Section 2 ‘from womb to tomb’ covers myths on human development and aging. The myth of relevance is the one about playing Mozart to infants to boost intelligence – alas this does not work.

Section 3 covers myths about memory. Here the myth about the brain being like a video recorder is important. Our memories of things pass ARE selective and cannot be relied on.

Section 4 discusses myths on intelligence and learning. In this section, we find out IQ tests actually have some credence; if you are not sure of the answer it might not be the best option to stick to a hunch; dyslexia is not just envisioning words with reversed letters; and the most important, learning styles are critiqued and debunked.

Consciousness, emotions and motivations, interpersonal behaviour and personality and covered in the next 4 sections. Myths of interest are: we are not actually able to learn languages if we listen to the new language while we sleep; men and women communicate in subtly similar and dissimilar ways which are not generalizable to either sex; and inkblots and handwriting do not reveal personality traits.

The postscript is also worth some study. Myth busting pointers are suggested. These are: not to trust ‘gut instinct’, ‘word of mouth’, media coverage, biased samples and in-built human biases. Instead, do ‘due diligence’, check sources and keep an open mind.

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