Psychology Department Home Page

Renee Countryman, Chair

  • Do people only use about 10% of their brains?
  • Does playing Mozart make babies smarter?
  • Does it make sense to match learning styles with teaching styles?
  • Do people with schizophrenia have multiple personalities?
  • Do opposites attract?
  • Is memory like a tape recorder or videotape?
  • Can people learn things while sleeping by playing an audio recording?
  • Do many criminals use and get acquitted by using the insanity defense?
  • Does our handwriting reveal something about our personalities?
  • Do men and women communicate completely differently?
  • Do our dreams reveal our unconscious desires?

Claims in advertisements, self-help books, movies and magazines often suggest yes to all of the questions above. However, the research findings in psychology do not support any of those claims or at least suggest that things are far more complicated than reports in pop culture suggest. How does a person come to distinguish fact from fiction? A goal of majoring or minoring in psychology is learning which claims about human behavior and human nature are consistently supported by research. This process involves learning not only what is true of human behavior, but also what is typicalof human behavior. Thus, a major or minor in psychology should enable you to sift through the various claims of opinion, folk tales, speculation, commonsense and junk science and come up with a reasoned and informed decision based upon your knowledge of the research literature. As a psychology student you will learn to be a wise consumer of behavioral information. This process involves:

  • Learning theories of human behavior
  • Learning quality research findings about emotion, motivation, cognition and behavior
  • Learning ethical guidelines in research, therapy, consulting and teaching
  • Critical thinking
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Knowledge of the scientific method generally
  • Familiarity with social science methodology in particular

If you are interested in learning more about fact versus fiction in psychology, we encourage you to read the following book:

50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior
S.O. Lilienfeld, S.J. Lynn, J. Ruscio & B.L. Beyerstein
Publication Year: