PT Blogs: Pop Goes Psychology

PT debunks conventional wisdom

By PT Staff, published on January 1, 2010 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Everyone's an amateur psychologist. How can you not be? You're surrounded by experimental subjects. But insight is not 20/20. We asked PT's bloggers ( to deflate some oft-cited pop psych.

Venting Reduces Anger

One of my pet peeves is how widely the notion of catharsis has been accepted. People think they will feel better by "getting it all out" or even that a hockey game is a release for their aggression. Aggression begets aggression. People are better off taking a deep breath and counting to 10 than "venting" their hostilities.—Jann Gumbiner (The Teenage Mind)

Liars Avoid Eye Contact

Eye-contact avoidance is erroneously associated by the general public with deception. Habitual liars actually make more eye contact than honest people. Why? Because they know that we look for this behavior and they want to make sure that we are buying their lies.—Joe Navarro (Spycatcher)

Introverts Are Shy

Introverted people are commonly thought to be shy, but introverts' low motivation to socialize is not the same as the inhibited behavior, tension, and awkwardness that characterize shyness. Introverts who are not shy can behave extrovertively when they choose; whereas shy people, both introverts and extroverts, can't turn their tension and awkwardness off and on. —Sophia Dembling (The Introvert's Corner)

You Record All Memories

Myth: Everything that happens to you is "recorded" in your mind (somewhere) and can be recalled under appropriate conditions (e.g., hypnosis). This fallacy was the basis for the terribly destructive Repressed Memory Therapy, which some therapists still practice. —Michael Yapko (The Social Side of Depression)

Men Aren't Romantic

Many people think men are less romantic than women. Yet men fall in love faster (because they are so visual); men tend to be more dependent on their girlfriends or wives for intimacy; men are over two times more likely to kill themselves when a relationship ends; and men show just as much activity in brain regions associated with romantic passion.—Helen Fisher (Of Human Bonding)

Early Birds Beat Night Owls

"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise"? Recent research has shown that night owls keep pace with early birds in attentional tasks soon after waking and outperform them as the day wears on—but only if they're following their natural sleep pattern. Try telling that to your boss.—Joshua Gowin (You, Illuminated)

Opposites Attract

A persistent myth is that in romance, opposites attract. In fact, one of the most powerful predictors of liking is similarity, regardless of the type of trait—personality, values, interests, or physical characteristics. —Andrew Galperin (The Blind Matchmaker)

Atheists Are Amoral

Religion is not the source of morality. Our moral sense arose from our nature as social animals. Conscience is nothing more than our capacity for empathy—the ability to feel what others feel—and reason—the ability to justify our decisions to others. —Austin Dacey (The Secular Conscience)


David Johnson (Hell's Pavement) offered a response that makes this whole article seem like a bad idea.

"Journalists believe that falsehoods should be confronted. Such efforts are notoriously ineffective and may even reinforce those falsehoods in the public consciousness. Repetition breeds familiarity, and the mind tends to accept as true anything that sounds familiar. Journalists are better off focusing on the truths they wish to convey."