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50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior [Paperback]

Scott O. Lilienfeld , Steven Jay Lynn , John Ruscio , Barry L. Beyerstein
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Sep 2009 1405131128 978-1405131124 1
50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology uses popular myths as a vehicle for helping students and laypersons to distinguish science from pseudoscience. Uses common myths as a vehicle for exploring how to distinguish factual from fictional claims in popular psychology Explores topics that readers will relate to, but often misunderstand, such as ′opposites attract′, ′people use only 10% of their brains′, and ′handwriting reveals your personality′ Provides a ′mythbusting kit′ for evaluating folk psychology claims in everyday life Teaches essential critical thinking skills through detailed discussions of each myth Includes over 200 additional psychological myths for readers to explore Contains an Appendix of useful Web Sites for examining psychological myths Features a postscript of remarkable psychological findings that sound like myths but that are true Engaging and accessible writing style that appeals to students and lay readers alike

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (4 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405131128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405131124
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"Written in an accessible and entertaining style, the book examines a wide range of myths from all areas of psychology. . . Accordingly, the book is a much–needed antidote to the avalanche of misinformation that masquerades as psychology and should be required reading for anyone with a passing interest in psychology or, for that matter, the human condition." (Department of Psychology, 1 June 2011) "Not only does the book illustrate just how often our intuitions are wrong, it also shows us how – in comparison to the truth – uninteresting they are. Shallow judgments imply over–confidence, assumption and monotomy. Assuming that you know something prior to giving any consideration to where that knowledge comes from is a mistake for many reasons but perhaps most of all because such presumption precludes surprise. To be surprised – shocked, provoked, scandalized – is a pleasure. . . 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology tells us that we need urgently to deal with our tendency to judge books by their covers. And just maybe, rather than considering any idealistic appeal to our rationalism, we should deal with this problem by considering an inversion similar to Kubrick′s: for now at least, when it comes to presenting discoveries about the mind, we ought not to try in vain to change our nature – our tendency towards prejudice – but instead do something simpler: tell better stories, and design better covers." (The Skeptic, 2011) "As you can tell from my reactions above I found this a very informative book and I′m only touching on particular things with my comments. If you′re a writer, this book should be read post–haste so you don′t keep repeating things you thought were true and obviously aren′t. For everyone else, the revelations should make you sit up and take heed of what not to be taken in by." (SFCrowsnest.co.uk, 1 May 2011) "This would be an ideal book to have in offices where people have to spend some time waiting for appointments." (Education Digest, November 2010) "This book would suit educators involved in study skills and critical thinking courses who might be looking for some new angles with which to update or spruce up their courses. It should be equally digestible to the A–level student and the first–year undergraduate."  ( PLATH , December 2010) "I love 50 Great Myths and used it in my winter seminar.  This should be on every psychologist′s shelf." ( Dartmouth Alumni Magazine , October 2010) "This is a refreshing and fun look at many of the concepts that have been accepted as fact by our popular culture." ( Book End Babes , September 01, 2010) "At the end of each sub–section covering an individual myth is a list of anti–factoids about related matters and their factual antidotes. By this means a considerable range of topics is covered." ( Education Review , July 2010) "Maybe we should pay more attention to books like 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Nature. The four psychology professors who authored this enlightening book are up against the roughly 3,500 self–help titles, a lot of them based on false premises, that are published in the U.S. every year." ( Poe′sDeadly Daughters, April 2010) "Scott Lilienfeld and his team ... have a history in delving into the dark myths of science, and pseudoscience ... .They are back. As with their other works, these authors manage to write well for ease of reading so many facts, and do so with their characteristic humor and cutting edge science. This book is [an] illumination, and vital reading for professionals and even laymen." (Metapsychology , June 2010) "Who should read this book? Anyone interested in psychology and or the scientific method.  The book is written in an easy to read fashion, is well referenced and includes a wide array of topics.  The book teaches the value of critical thinking, and tells us it′s all right to question authority. In conclusion, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology is a must read for psychology majors, therapists and anyone who wishes to gain knowledge about the diverse field of psychology.  I wish this book was available when I was studying psychology in college." (Basil & Spice (Jamie Hale), May 2010) "Popular psychology is a prolific source of myths. A new book does an excellent job of mythbusting: 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Some myths I had swallowed whole and the book′s carefully presented evidence made me change my mind. They cover 50 myths in depth, explaining their origins, why people believe them, and what the published research has to say about the claims. Everything is meticulously documented with sources listed. The authors have done us a great service by compiling all this information in a handy, accessible form, by showing how science trumps common knowledge and common sense, and by teaching us how to question and think about what we hear. I highly recommend it." ( Dr. Harriet Hall for Skeptic Magazine, February 2010 , and ScienceBasedMedicine.org, November 2009) "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology is written in an engaging style and is valuable for both professionals and the general public. I highly recommend it." (Skeptical Inquirer, February 2010) "Delightful and important book ... .This is a fine tool for teaching critical thinking. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology is much more than an entertaining put–down of popular misconceptions. Any psychologist can put [this book] to good use. Certainly teachers can use it as a supplement to aid in teaching critical thinking and to suggest ideas for research on other myths.We can give it to family members and friends who are curious about what psychology has to contribute and might themselves engage in some myth busting." (PsycCritiques, January 2010) "If you are familiar with other books by the same authors, you know that the writing style is incredibly engaging and easy–to–read, making the book accessible to those with little knowledge of psychology and well as those with considerable education in the field. While we certainly won′t stop combating clinical psychology myths here at PBB, it′s always exciting to come across like–minded folks also providing valuable material!" (Psychotherapy Brown Bag, October 2009) "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology is a fascinating book, and while reading, I cheered the authors on. If you have questioned science as some of us have, this book will reassure you that your thinking was perfectly logical and correct. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology clarifies things about which I have always wondered, but never challenged. Myths about aging, memory, learning, emotions and motivation, and mental illness are among the subjects covered.  The reading is enlightening, refreshing and interesting.You don′t have to be a Ph.D, or even a student of psychology to enjoy this book.  It′s is written in language all can understand and the information is easily digested." (Basil & Spice, October 2009) "Scott Lilienfeld and his coauthors explore the gulf between what millions of people say is so and the truth. Some of these myths are just plain fascinating." ( US News and World Report, October 2009)  


“True knowledge is hard won, and this timely and remarkable book shows us that stamping out falsehoods is no easy task either. The book does it all: it debunks all–too–common beliefs from the pseudoscientific fringe; it presents evidence against a variety of myths that seem like they ought to be true; it explains why people fall prey to such falsehoods; and it ends with some tantalizing facts about mind and behavior that make it clear that the truth can be every bit as amazing as fiction. These 50 myths won′t disappear with the publication of this book, but those who read it will enjoy being able to set others–many others–straight.” – Thomas Gilovich , Cornell University "We have needed this compendium for some time. These factoids and popular (but fallacious) memes about psychology have been exposed in single publications, but critiques of all of them have never been brought together in one place before. The myths chosen by these authors are indeed popular ones—the very ones that psychology instructors encounter every day. The book is an incredible resource for both student and instructor. The critiques are accurate and well written. I’m sure my copy will be dog–eared within six months." – Keith E. Stanovich , author or How To Think Straight About Psychology and What Intelligence Tests Miss "A much–needed mythbuster for consumers and students of psychology. This engaging book reminds us that applying science to everyday psychology is not only enormously worthwhile, but fun." – Carol Tavris, Ph.D. , coauthor of Mistakes were made (but not by me) "Because I only use 10% of my brain, I had to play Mozart music while reading this book, and then be hypnotized to recover the memory of it because of early childhood traumas that were repressed but occasionally leaked through out–of–body experiences and ESP. And if you believe any of the above you need to read this book...twice if its mythbusting revelations cause you to repress the memory of it." – Michael Shermer , Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of Why People Believe Weird Things "Is it true that psychology is mostly common sense? For anyone who wonders, this amazing book—which effectively discounts 50 pop psychology myths and briefly dismisses 250 more—provides convincing answers. And it does more: it offers fascinating examples of how science works and supports critical thinking. For teachers, students, writers, and anyone who wants to think smarter, this classic–to–be will be a valuable resource and a great read." – David G. Myers , Hope College, author, Intuition: Its Powers and Perils "I find each and every chapter excellent and from a teaching point of view, brilliant. The way in which the history of the myths is presented up to the critical but balanced discussion of each myth, is a great achievement. Scott Lilienfeld is well–known for his user–friendly writing style, but in this text he and his co–authors reach a new level. This led to a book which will not only be easily understandable by undergraduate and especially first year students, but also by the general population." – Dap Louw , Head, Centre for Psychology and the Law, University of the Free State

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 Myths of Psychology Debunked 6 Dec 2011
"Opposites attract", "you only use 10% of your brain", and "people are more depressed on Mondays" are just some of the myths that people accept as fact, when they are in fact totally false. This book debunks some of the popular misconceptions about human behavior that are in circulation, and shows that fact is far more interesting than fiction. This book is aimed at psychology students and anyone interested in psychology and behavior. It offers fascinating examples of how science works, supports critical thinking, and counters some of the pseudo-science circulating in popular culture.
This book presents scientific evidence disproving a variety of myths that seem like they ought to be true, and explains why people fall prey to such falsehoods. The book tackles psychological myths about brain power, learning, perception, feelings, memory, mood, mental illness and more.

The book has a postscript of psychological findings that are strange but true, such as the behavioral study with pigeons, where they were successfully taught to distinguish between the paintings of Monet and Picasso! Or the study that shows that dogs do resemble their owners! Fact not fiction!

The book is fully referenced and has recommendations for further reading.
The authors are all well respected professors of psychology at leading universities in the US and Canada.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I read it from cover to cover 21 Aug 2012
By Matthew Leitch VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Before reading this book I was aware of quite a number of myths of popular psychology, so I was wondering if the authors would cover many I didn't already know about. They did. This was fascinating. The research presented not only explains what research actually says (or does not say) but also shows roughly how many people believe the myths.

This book is easy and pleasant to read.

Obviously, I don't expect their conclusions to be perfect in every respect and some of them will be found to be myths in future. What I can say is that if you read this book you will jettison more myths than you acquire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good discussion material 11 Oct 2011
Contains thoroughly researched mini-topics that dispel many current misunderstandings. Provides good material for starting discussions, both in the classroom or at a dinner party.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what the title says! 28 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An informative and enjoyable read - somehow those pages just kept on turning. Well argued and well referenced (unobtrusively). Now I'm noticing these myths as they crop up in everyday life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a book of lists 19 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was an enjoyable light read, great for the train or the bus. I was not always convinced by the myth-busting, since too definitive a "bust" comes across as just as shallow as too definitive a "myth". Good entertaining stuff though and a great tool for sceptics.
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