Psychology can be an invigorating and interesting field of study. It focuses on understanding human behavior and thinking patterns. Due to the nature of psychology and the questions it strives to answer, some people are confused about the limits of this discipline. It is much more than self-help and positive thinking. Like any other scientific discipline, psychology is rooted in facts, experimentation, and testable hypotheses. Quite often what people think of as academic psychology is actually pop-psychology gone wrong. When you are deciding whether or not to take psychology courses in your undergraduate studies you should be aware of the myths that many people believe.
Pop-psychology is often only nominally based on true science. Sometimes people will hear one specific part of a psychological finding and extrapolate it into something much larger than it actually is. People like hearing that they can improve themselves without the help of professionals like psychologists, psychiatrists or other medical personnel. We are a culture built on the idea of pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. While that sentiment can be a very strong and positive force, it sometimes results in spreading myths about things like psychology.
Myth #1: It’s Better to Vent Anger Than Let It Stay Inside You
For many people, it feels very good to scream into a pillow, punch a punching bag or take out their righteous anger on a specific person. However, psychological research has shown that expressing anger in such a way actually turns up aggression. What might be a momentary stress release actually harms us psychologically and physiologically. Instead, a better course of action is active problem solving to eliminate the cause of anger. Instead of treating the symptoms of your anger by venting it, the intelligent and psychologically sound thing to do is to try to eliminate the source of the anger in the first place.
Myth #2: The Human Mind Works Like a Video Recorder
What you see is what you see, right? If somebody asks you to recount a memory of an event you recently had all you have to do is play back your mental video camera and recite what you see, right? Wrong. Psychologists have discovered that our memories are much more fallible that we think. It has been shown that our memory of an event can change over time and it’s even possible to implant a memory in somebody’s mind that never actually happened.
Myth #3: Opposites Attract
Everybody has heard this pithy cliché at one point or another. Relationship experts seem to always be talking about how extroverts are attracted to introverts, slobs are attracted to neat people, and so on and so forth. It makes for a nice idea but reality is not so clean cut. In fact, psychologists have discovered almost the complete opposite to be true. The more people are alike in personality, characteristics, and beliefs, the more likely they seem to form a successful romantic relationship.
Myth #4: People With Schizophrenia Have Multiple Personalities
This is a myth that has been perpetrated by Hollywood and television to the point that people now completely misunderstand what schizophrenia is. What people think is schizophrenia is actually what psychiatrists and psychologists call Multiple Personality Disorder. Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is the splitting of the functions of emotion and thinking. It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and the inability to stay rooted in reality. It has nothing whatsoever to do with having multiple personalities living in one body.
Like almost any discipline, many myths have been built around the findings of psychology. Sometimes these myths are just misunderstandings of legitimate psychological research and sometimes they are just flat out wrong. Taking psychology courses should help rid you of these myths and make you a much more accurate psychological thinker in the process.