Popular myths in psychology (part 1)

So as I mentioned in my introduction page, I’m a psychology student. And I’m writing this post partly because I want people to know, and mostly because I need a reason to do some revision for my summer exams. So here goes!


Myth no. 1: We only use 10% of the brain.

Evolutionary speaking: Humans developed from tiny creatures into what we are today. Everything about our bodies are there because we needed it; from our legs, to our eyes to our genitals. This is also true for our brain. All the little worm-looking bundles of nerves inside our skull came to be because we humans became smarter and needed more brainpower to live; all the different areas of the brain have an important name and a function. See?



Myth no. 2: Human memory works like a video camera or computer hard-drive.

You might have heard about short-term memory and long-term memory, and maybe sensory memory? If not, let me explain them in very brief terms:

It goes: sensory –> short-term –> long-term.

Sensory memory is the initial stage and only lasts a maximum of 4 seconds. Short-term memory is next and lasts less than 20 seconds and has a capacity of 7 (+/- 2) pieces of information.  This is also where all the encoding, retrieving and rehearsing of information happens. Short- term memory is also called working memory by most psychologists because of this. Long- term memory is where information is stored for long periods of time. Again, this is a very brief explanation (if you are interested in learning more about memory, google it or youtube it or go to the nearest library or just ask me; I would love to write a full post about memory.)

Our memory is stored in small components, sound is stored one place, letters another place, facts another place etc. And when we have to recall let’s say, and event, we literally have to find all these components that make up this event and put them together ourselves, and we have to reconstruct the entire memory all over again. Our brain makes the memory. This means that every time we remember something, it changes a little.

And this is also why eyewitness reports are not always accurate.

If you want to learn more, try Radiolab.


Myth no. 3: Hypnosis

Let me just tell you. Hypnosis is real, and it works. For some people.

First discovered by accident by Franz Anton Mesmer (another name for hypnosis is mesmerism) somewhere between the late 1700 and early 1800, hypnosis works if the person knows what is happening. There is no need to move an object in front of their eyes or tell them they’re getting sleepy. Sometimes it’s just enough to tell them to sit down and go into hypnosis, and they will do just that in a couple of minutes.

And yes, it is possible to make people forget what happened to them during the hypnosis, and to make them do strange stuff. But no, psychologists do not agree on the reasons behind hypnosis. Some believe it is an altered state of consciousness, some do not. There are so many theories, but so little time to explain them all.

More information on hypnosis can be found in the library (this is all from my textbook: Psychology: fourth edition by G. Neil Martin, Neil R. Carlson and William Buskist) 😉

– Saira