The 3 Psychology Theories You Didn't Know Were Myths

Kelsey Clark

No other scientific field allows for more inaccurate theories than psychology. Perhaps this is due to the fact that psychology is, in a sense, the science of who we are, leading many average Joes to theorize about how and why we do what we do (myself included). Knowing this, Dr. Christian Jarrett, psychologist and creator of the UK's Research Digest Blog, compiled a list of the most common misconceptions about human behavior, many of which will surprise you. What follows is a list of his three most enlightening finds: 

We learn better in our preferred "learning styles."

Just like we tend to latch onto specifics about ourselves—like our astrological sign or our personality type—humans also have a tendency to pledge allegiance to certain learning styles. In fact, a recent survey of British teachers found that roughly 96 percent believed that people learned more quickly when taught in their preferred method. As it turns out, the nature of the material is usually what determines the best way to learn it, not the person's individual disposition. 

Mental illness is caused by imbalances in the brain.

This was by far the most surprising myth on Dr. Jarrett's list. Apparently, there is no ideal or correct balance of brain chemicals—a little known fact that Jarrett claims psychiatrists or neurologists will admit to if they're being completely honest. "Part of the support for the imbalance idea comes from the fact that anti-depressant medication alters levels of neurochemicals in the brain," writes Jarrett. "But of course that doesn't mean that a chemical imbalance causes the problems in the first place."

The wrong situation can turn anyone bad.

This belief was institutionalized by the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. Conducted in 1971, the experiment required students to take on the role of prisoner or guard. The students playing the latter eventually turned violent, leading the researchers to terminate the experiment and claim that, when put in the right situation, even the most kind-hearted of people can turn evil. A lesser-known fact is that the experiment was wildly flawed, and that more recent research has contradicted the conclusions initially drawn in the SPE. Many psychologists now believe that the group dynamic influences a given situation more than anything else.

View Dr. Jarrett's full list here, and if psychology piques your interest as it does ours, pick up one of our favorite books, Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

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