Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Popular Psychology: Fact or Fiction

Interview with Scott Lilienfeld
by Jamie Hale

1- Congratulations on the success of your new book- 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. While conducting research for the book were you surprised by any of your findings?

Many thanks..... admittedly, we probably weren't surprised by too much given that we've been researching these myths for a number of years. But certainly, in the past some surprised us. For example, I once believed that the main influence on happiness was external events, but now think otherwise.

2- Can you give readers an example of a popular brain myth?

Sure, the belief that people use only 10% of their brain capacity.

What about a popular memory myth?

The belief that memory operates much like a video camera or tape recorder.

What about a popular myth associated with psychological treatment?

The belief that to get better, one must go on a psychological 'tour" of one's childhood experiences.

3- Who or what are the primary sources of psychological myths? How can the lay public defend themselves against shams?

The primary source is the huge, burgeoning pop psychology industry - self-help books, the internet, films, TV shows, magazines, and the like. But many of these myths also spring from the allure of our everyday experience: many of these myths seem persuasive because they accord with our commonsense intuitions. But these intuitions are often erroneous. The public can defend themselves against shams by becoming armed with accurate knowledge. Laypersons need to understand that not all pop psychology claims are correct, and that they need to be able to distinguish fact from fiction.

4- What are you current research interests?

Personality disorders, psychiatric classification and diagnosis, evidence-based practice in psychology, scientific thinking as applied to psychological treatment, research, and education.

5- Who is your favorite science writer?

Carl Sagan.

6- Keith Stanovich's new book- What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought- reveals that intelligence tests do not measure rational thought? Are there any measurement procedures available for measuring rational thought?

Not many good ones. Actually, Stanovich is working on one from what he's told me..such measures are sorely needed, because I think Stanovich is right that standard IQ tests don't do a great job of measuring critical thinking capacity. Lots of smart people can't think clearly, as recent events in the U.S. economy demonstrate.

About Scott Lilienfeld
He is a professor of Psychology at at Emory University, Atlanta, and an author of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior, co-written with Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and the late great Barry Beyerstein.

I would like to thank Dr. Lilienfeld for taking the time to answer many of my questions regarding the diverse field of psychology. To learn more about Dr. Lilienfeld visit http://www.psychology.emory.edu/clinical/lilienfeld/index.html

Recommended Readings
50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Review

Real Self-Help

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