Ten Myths About Psychology

You’ve heard of your I.Q., your general intelligence, but what’s your Psy-Q? How much do you know about what makes you tick, and how good are you at predicting other people’s behavior or even your own? And how much of what you think you know about psychology is wrong? Let’s find out by counting down the top 10 myths of psychology.

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You’ve probably heard it said that when it comes to their psychology, it’s almost as if men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But how different are men and women really? To find out, let’s start by looking at something on which men and women really do differ and plotting some psychological gender differences on the same scale. One thing men and women do really differ on is how far they can throw a ball. So if we look at the data for men here, we see what is called a normal distribution curve. A few men can throw a ball really far, and a few men not far at all, but most a kind of average distance. And women share the same distribution as well, but actually there’s quite a big difference. In fact, the average man can throw a ball further than about 98 percent of all women. So now let’s look at what some psychological gender differences look like on the same standardized scale. Any psychologist will tell you that men are better at spatial awareness than women — so things like map-reading, for example — and it’s true, but let’s have a look at the size of this difference. It’s tiny; the lines are so close together they almost overlap. In fact, the average woman is better than 33 percent of all men, and of course, if that was 50 percent, then the two genders would be exactly equal. It’s worth bearing in mind that this difference and the next one I’ll show you are pretty much the biggest psychological gender differences ever discovered in psychology. So here’s the next one. Any psychologist will tell you that women are better with language and grammar than men. So here’s performance on the standardized grammar test. There go the women. There go the men. Again, yes, women are better on average, but the lines are so close that 33 percent of men are better than the average woman, and again, if it was 50 percent, that would represent complete gender equality. So it’s not really a case of Mars and Venus. It’s more a case of, if anything, Mars and Snickers: basically the same, but one’s maybe slightly nuttier than the other. I won’t say which. Continue reading Ten Myths About Psychology

Brain magic

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Brain magic. What’s brain magic all about? Brain magic to me indicates that area of magic dealing with psychological and mind-reading effects. So unlike traditional magic, it uses the power of words, linguistic deception, non-verbal communication and various other techniques to create the illusion of a sixth sense.
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Now, I’m going to show you all how easy it is to manipulate the human mind once you know how. And I want everybody downstairs also to join in with me and everybody here. I want everybody to put out your hands like this for me, first of all. OK, clap them together, once. OK, reverse your hands. Now, follow my actions exactly. Now about half the audience has their left hand up. Why is that? OK, swap them around, put your right hand up. OK, now, cross your hands over, so your right hand goes over, interlace your fingers like this, then make sure your right thumb is outside your left thumb — that’s very important. Yours is the other way around, so swap it around. Excellent, OK. Extend your fingers like this for me. All right. Tap them together once. OK, now, if you did not allow me to deceive your minds, you would all be able to do this. (Laughter) So, now you can see how easy it is for me to manipulate the human mind, once you know how. (Laughter)

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Now, I remember when I was about 15, I read a copy of Life magazine, which detailed a story about a 75-year-old blind Russian woman who could sense printed letters — there’s still people trying to do it here — (Laughter) — who could sense printed letters and even sense colors, just by touch. And she was completely blind. She could also read the serial numbers on bills when they were placed, face down, on a hard surface. Now, I was fascinated, but at the same time, skeptical. How could somebody read using their fingertips? You know, if you actually think about it, if somebody is totally blind — a guy yesterday did a demonstration in one of the rooms, where people had to close their eyes and they could just hear things. And it’s just a really weird thing to try and figure out. How could somebody read using their fingertips? Now earlier on, as part of a TV show that I have coming up on MTV, I attempted to give a similar demonstration of what is now known as second sight. So, let’s take a look. Continue reading Brain magic

One more reason to get a good night’s sleep

Sleep. It’s something we spend about a third of our lives doing, but do any of us really understand what it’s all about? 0:19 Two thousand years ago, Galen, one of the most prominent medical researchers of the ancient world, proposed that while we’re awake, our brain’s motive force, its juice, would flow out to all the other parts of the body, animating them but leaving the brain all dried up, and he thought that when we sleep, all this moisture that filled the rest of the body would come rushing back,

rehydrating the brain and refreshing the mind. Now, that sounds completely ridiculous to us now, but Galen was simply trying to explain something about sleep that we all deal with every day. See, we all know based on our own experience that when you sleep, it clears your mind, and when you don’t sleep, it leaves your mind murky. But while we know a great deal more about sleep now than when Galen was around, we still haven’t understood why it is that sleep, of all of our activities, has this incredible restorative function for the mind.
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So today I want to tell you about some recent research that may shed new light on this question. We’ve found that sleep may actually be a kind of elegant design solution to some of the brain’s most basic needs, a unique way that the brain meets the high demands and the narrow margins that set it apart from all the other organs of the body. Continue reading One more reason to get a good night’s sleep