50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior (Anglais) Broché – 4 septembre 2009
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Revue de presse
"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)
Présentation de l'éditeur
- 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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Highly recommended to anyone who believes in old wive's tales & myths from the last 50years of our culture.
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
The mission of the book is unclear. It purports to debunk "myths" about psychology, by which the authors mean widespread misconceptions. When the authors examine simplistic credos and widespread misunderstandings they often make valuable contributions along this line. But they frequently stray from this educational project into a more polemical one. This latter and more polemical project involves looking at areas of genuine controversy in the field of psychology and attacking positions held by those with whom the authors disagree. Of course, Lilienfeld et al. are within their rights to critique any ideas they wish; however, lumping valid intellectual positions together with credos and superstition, and labeling all these claims, sweepingly, as "myths" is analytically problematic and misleading to the public. It lowers the level of discourse, avoids addressing real issues and controversies in the field, and--perhaps most seriously of all--discredits the very educational project that the authors say they want to advance. The "myth" format inevitably creates "straw man" arguments regarding some important issues, a fact which is disconcerting in light of the aggressive marketing of this book for introductory psychology courses. Because the book includes several such misrepresentations, I will focus the remainder of this review on a few of them. (For further details and references regarding the following comments, as well as additional examples of problems with this book, see the extended review on my website by clicking the link on my reviewer profile page.)
One example of the authors' polemics is "Myth" #34: "Most people who were sexually abused in childhood develop severe personality disturbances in adulthood." Some clinicians do make exaggerated claims about universally damaging effects of sexual abuse, and there is a valid place for disputing such claims. But this issue (like many of those considered by the book) is a complicated one, involving definitional problems, ambiguous data, methodological issues, and interpretive controversies. The position ultimately taken by the authors is, in reality, just as controversial as the one they wish to debunk. That is, most researchers do, in fact, believe that the effects of sexual abuse are generally fairly serious. (Typical findings are that anxiety disorders, personality disorders, suicide attempts and suicides are significantly more likely among survivors of childhood sexual abuse, that depression and drug and alcohol dependency are about two to three times as common in this population, and that these findings are independent of family pathology). By minimally addressing the mainstream of opinion on this issue, Lilienfeld et al. treat sexual abuse and its effects dismissively. To make matters worse, they do not acknowledge the extremity of their own views. Thus, they write approvingly about Bruce Rind and his colleagues, portraying them as heroic figures who were unjustly persecuted for questioning the severity of the effects of childhood sexual abuse. In reality, Rind et al.'s findings involved several methodological problems; but more importantly, Rind et al. received severe criticism primarily for their conclusion that adult-child sexual contact should not be considered abuse if that contact involves (in their words) "a willing encounter with positive reactions." A number of authors have analyzed the danger that such a position entails for children. For example, Berliner and Conte describe a study in which children who had been sexually abused were interviewed in depth. The children described how "consent" was frequently obtained through emotional manipulation and/or physical threats; yet many of the children continued to believe that they had willingly participated and that the sexual relationship had been a positive one. (Interestingly, sex offenders who were interviewed in a separate study by Conte, Wolf & Smith gave reports that closely matched the reports of these abused children, frequently describing themselves as targeting the most vulnerable and needy children they could find.) None of this is considered by Lilienfeld et al., much less by Rind and his co-author Robert Bauserman, both of whom have publicly aligned themselves with pedophile advocacy groups.
As an additional example of the extremity of Lilienfeld et al.'s position, consider their citation of Lenore Terr's 1983 follow-up report on the Chowchilla kidnapping victims. Lilienfeld et al. summarize Terr's findings with the peculiar statement that "although most [of the children] were haunted by memories of the incident, virtually all were well adjusted" (p. 170). Here is the abstract of Terr's article; you can decide for yourself how "well adjusted": the children were:
"Conducted a 4-yr follow-up study of 25 children who had been school bus kidnapping victims and 1 child who narrowly missed the experience. Results revealed that every S exhibited posttraumatic effects. Symptom severity was related to the prior vulnerabilities, family pathology, and community bonding. Findings included pessimism about the future, belief in omens and prediction, memories of incorrect perceptions, thought suppression, shame, fear of reexperiencing traumatic anxiety, trauma-specific and mundane fears, posttraumatic play, behavioral reenactment, repetitions of psychophysiological disturbances that began with the kidnapping, repeated nightmares, and dreams of personal death. It is concluded that brief treatment 5-23 mo after the kidnapping did not prevent symptoms and signs 4 yrs later."
On other topics, Lilienfeld et al. take positions on controversies that are not extreme but that are argued in a significantly disproportionate and one-sided manner. An example is Myth #13 "Individuals Commonly Repress Memories of Traumatic Experiences." The authors devote more than four pages to the refutation of this "myth," and then include a three sentence disclaimer at the end acknowledging that some traumatic memories may be lost and recovered. The average reader (a first year undergraduate, for example) is left with the impression that there is abundant evidence for false memory syndrome but little to no evidence for the loss and recovery of traumatic memory. In reality, however, the picture is much more mixed, with substantial evidence for both false memory and recovered memory. I have presented some of the (substantial) evidence supporting the recovered memory "side" in my comment on Annie M.'s 2-star review of this book, elsewhere on this website.
Lilienfeld et al. treat other clinical issues in ways that significantly misrepresent them. An example is "Myth" # 20 "Researchers have demonstrated that dreams possess symbolic meaning." In reality, nobody claims that experimental psychologists (the kind of researchers the authors are referring to here) have "demonstrated" such a thing, so disproving it won't be hard. But starting from this misleading formulation, the authors go on to ignore most clinical theories of dreaming and focus only on Freud, with an increasingly derisive tone. Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, however, is considered a classic in the history of psychology by many serious thinkers, and for good reasons: putting aside his more dated speculations (which made considerably more sense in 19th Century Vienna), Freud's analysis of dream formation by "primary process thinking" and "the dreamwork" represents an array of insights that psychologists, including neuroscientists, have been drawing on for over a hundred years; Hobson, who Lilienfeld et al. cite favorably, actually followed Freud's theory rather closely (despite his denials of doing so), and his later work approached Freud even more closely when he revised his theory to recognize emotional determination of dreams by structures in the limbic system. More recent neuropsychological research, including studies of associative thinking in dreams by Robert Stickgold, one of Hobson's colleagues, have lent even greater support to Freud's analyses of symbolic thinking in dreams. Despite such facts, Lilienfeld et al. focus prominently on Freud's most dated and questionable claims and lump him together with pop-psych hucksters and gurus; this is a common tactic among psychologists who overvalue controlled laboratory research, who undervalue careful clinical analysis, and who prefer to avoid the difficult work of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of these two very different kinds of information and considering how the discrepancies between them might be reconcilable.
A final example of Lilienfeld et al.'s polemics is "Myth" # 15 "Intelligence (IQ) tests are biased against certain groups of people." The misrepresentation here is not of the technical aspects of tests but rather of the context in which controversies about testing occur. Most important criticisms of IQ tests are not about how they are constructed but rather about how they are used, how operational definitions of intelligence are confused with real intellectual capabilities, how score variance is fallaciously attributed to genetic factors, and how overreliance on the results of these tests frequently serves social and political agendas of channeling resources from more needy to less needy populations. Lilienfeld et al. take the easy path of defending the technical aspects of tests and avoid the more difficult one of considering how psychometric technologies and institutions routinize practices that systematically contribute to misinterpretations of test scores and to "keeping the playing field uneven."
In summary, this is a disappointing book. It presents some valuable critiques, but its mission is seriously flawed by the authors' tendency to present distorted pictures of some legitimate and important controversies in the field of psychology. The authors present themselves as reasonable arbiters of muddle and controversy in the field of psychology; but all too often they turn out to be peddling their own brand of psychological sophistry.
However, I would take issues with a few of the "Other Myths to Explore" at the end of the chapters, which could be easily misinterpreted. For example, on page 63 the authors claim that "children with extremely high IQs have much higher levels of creative accomplishment in adulthood than other children." While this is generally correct, it ignores research showing that 'extremely' high IQs do not predict the next Einsteins or Lincolns. In Lewis Terman's famous study, his high IQ group did very well into adulthood, but not up to Terman's predictions of greatness--in fact, most turned out to be very average adults. Such 'nuggets' at the end of the chapters are a little too concise, and this is why I give the book 4 stars rather than 5.
And if the authors are reading, I recommend the following myths for future editions:
Stimulant use in childhood increases the risk of addictions in adulthood
ADHD is caused by video games and excessive television viewing
It is easy for criminals to fake mental retardation in order to avoid the death penalty
Boys are more aggressive than girls
"Wilderness Programs" are highly effective for juvenile delinquents
The DARE program is very effective in reducing/preventing drug use
Adolescents with jobs are less likely than their unemployed peers to engage in risky behavior
Child abuse is much more common now than ever before
I could go on, but I'll stop there. The point is, even though psychology is a 'soft science,' there are issues around which consensus has been built. Yet, many misonceptions still exist. Indeed, many readers unfamiliar with the field may find some of the authors' conclusions controversial (autism and the MMR vaccine leaps to mind), but the research evidence to the contrary is very compelling. This book does a great job explaining how.
In their Introduction, the authors talk about "Psychological Science and Common Sense" and offer tools for myth-busting, including ten of the mostly likely reasons why myths develop. Here they discuss factors such as selective perception and memory, confusing correlation and causation, the influence of the media, and problems with terminology (it appears that some of the other reviewers may have skipped this section and/or would benefit from rereading this information). The main body of the book is divided into 11 chapters, each organized around a specific topic area--for example, "Myths about Memory," "Myths about Emotion and Feeling," "Myths about Psychological Treatment," etc. Each chapter contains 4-6 specific myths; about 4-6 pages is devoted to each individual myth. Finally, at the end of every chapter, the authors have listed "Other Myths to Explore." Here they simply provide statements of "Fact" and "Fiction" (anywhere from about 12 to 30) without any accompanying research backup.
In simply perusing the chapters prior to starting to read the book, I was happy to see that none of the myths came as a great surprise to me. In fact, I'd actually argued several of these points myself in the past, including that the expression of anger to others isn't always better and that electroconvulsive therapy isn't violent or harmful. This doesn't mean that I completely agreed with the authors about everything, however. One of the myths listed is "A positive attitude can stave off cancer." No, a positive attitude might not be able to "stave off" cancer, but in psychologist Martin Selgiman's work with optimism, he HAS shown some excellent effects, including improved survival rates, in teaching optimism to cancer patients (see Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life). I also had a question about the derivation of one of the statistics included in one of the "Other Myths to Explore" sections. I emailed the three living authors about this, and two of them responded almost immediately to say that they would research the exact origin of this number so that they could confirm its accuracy for the second edition of the book (currently in development).
The fact that I had a few disagreements with the authors did not alter my main impression--i.e., this is an excellent book which was extremely well-researched. As a clinical psychologist, I was trained in the classic scientist-practitioner model, and part of this training involved learning how to 1) recognize whether something has appropriate research backing, and 2) review that research with a healthy skepticism. Like the myths that it addresses, this book of course should be approached with a critical eye. However, in doing so, what one is likely to find is an engaging, extremely readable challenge to some commonly-held popular psychology myths written by experts in the field. Highly recommended for anyone within the disciple of psychology or simply those with an interest in the topic.