BUSTED! Psychology myths you thought were true

Dr Ben Ambridge blows away commonly held beliefs about our brains and psychology, in turn revealing how poorly we test for truth. How do you rate?

Read my summary of his presentation and the reason this is important to you, below.

Ambridge’s full presentation “Ten Myths About Psychology Debunked” (15mins) is also here:


Learning styles.  We’ve all been asked about our preferred learning style based on the Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic (V.A.K) model.  Many of us train and present based on these ‘ styles.’  Dr Ambridge asserts learning styles are not relevant and tests show that your style of training or presenting is best determined by what you are trying to teach, not what style learners might be or not be.

Left brained or right brained?   We use our left brain for logic and right brain for creativity – right?  Wrong, it’s just another myth.  Even the most mundane activities engage both sides of the brain.  Ambridge also debunks the myth that left handed people are more creative…sorry south-paws, you’ve been outed!

We only use 10% of our brains!  Not true according to Ambridge, not even true prior to having your morning coffee!  While he believes we can all use our brains more effectively, it is nonsense that we only use 10% of it.

Baroque music makes you smarter.  The theory goes that people were played Mozart and then scored better on IQ tests.  It turns out however that you can replicate the improved test results by playing other music or even by telling a good story.  The key is listening to something you like.  Sure, Mozart worked for some, but only for the lovers of Mozart it seems.  Feeling silly about buying that Baby Beethoven DVD now?

We can detect when people are lying.  Ambridge asserts that while we think we can detect when someone is lying by observing speech and body language, studies show that we are “at chance” when making our judgments.  This is even true for police officers and detectives he says.

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  In areas where you might think there are large differences between men and women, Dr Ambridge demonstrates there’s in fact little difference.  Myths include ‘men have greater spatial awareness’ and ‘women are better with grammar and language.’  While there’s a grain of truth to these, the difference is smaller than you think.

Inkblot tests reveal personality.  Thoroughly debunked, the famous Rorschach inkblot tests are no longer used in modern psychology.

Sports teams experience ‘purple patches.’  The theory of sports teams or sports people going through ‘purple patches’ (where they just can’t miss) is merely a statistical anomaly.  We think a sports team or athlete is ‘on fire’ because our brains are always looking for patterns even when they don’t exist.  Any set of scores will eventually hit a ‘purple patch.’  Just try tossing a coin and eventually you’ll get a run of heads or tails.

So why is any of this significant?  In too many instances we accept things as true that aren’t.  While the topics covered here may not be vital to you there will be many critical things that you believe to be true that may not be!  If you operate simply by using commonly held beliefs as your source and don’t regularly test assumptions, any decision making or planning you do will be compromised.

What assumptions do you operate from regarding your role, your team, your company, the market or your customers etc?  Do you know how we come to believe things without testing their validity?  More importantly, do you know how to avoid this trap, and know how to properly check information you use everyday?

If you’d like to know more about how to make more rational decisions and better plans for yourself, your team or your business then please talk to me about learning the techniques of critical thinking.

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