Winter 2010: Of Note

Frustrated parents and teenager

Elena Elisseeva/iStockphoto

True or False?

Five common myths of pop psychology

1. Most People Use Only 10 Percent of Their Brains.

A vast store of untapped cerebral power might be nice, but there are several reasons to conclude that this is simply not the case, including the fact that even a minimal amount of damage to the brain can result in severe problems.

2. Adolescence Is Inevitably a Time of Psychological Turmoil.

A range of studies indicates that only about 20 percent of teens experience overt angst; most are reasonably happy and well adjusted, with positive family relationships. Some speculate that parents in the Western world (where adolescent issues are more common) treat their teens like children rather than developing adults, causing them to rebel.

3. The Defining Feature of Dyslexia Is Reversing Letters.

Dyslexia is a disorder characterized by difficulties processing written language, but there is no evidence that dyslexics literally see letters backwards. Moreover, most of us get things backwards sometimes, which does not mean we have dyslexia; backward writing is common among young children who typically outgrow it.

4. Lie Detector Tests Are Accurate.

For some people, even honest answers can produce the physiological reaction a polygraph machine is looking for; on the other hand, psychopaths are notorious for lying under pressure without exhibiting anxiety. As the book puts it: “It’s an arousal detector, not a lie detector.”

5. Opposites Attract.

Don’t be fooled: two people with similar personality traits are not only more likely to be attracted to each other, they are more likely to be happy and stay together. If you think about it, most fights with your partner or spouse are born of fundamental differences, not likenesses. Guess what—this goes for friendships, too.

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