25 Surprising Facts About Psychology

Who says psychology is all common sense?

Posted Oct 15, 2011

When you tell someone that you're taking, teaching, or practicing psychology, you're likely to get the reaction that "it's all common sense." However, having taught introductory psychology for over 30 years, I've accumulated an armamentarium of facts to teach students that challenge this myth about psychology's knowledge base.

See if you can "psych" out these psych facts yourself:*

1. Freud initially only sold 700 copies of the Interpretation of Dreams.

2. Placebos can often offer as much relief  as actual treatments.

3. Maslow's study of 3000 college students found that none met the criteria for self-actualization.

4. Skinner began his work on pigeons in working on a missile detection system during World War II.

5. Most people experience déjà vu about a conversation or a dream.

6. Posting a calorie chart in fast food restaurants leads people to choose less healthy foods.

7. Most "identical twins" are not "identical."

8. John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Caroline died due to a vestibular illusion.

9. The Stanford Prison experiment had to be discontinued after 6 days instead of the planned 14.

10. Over 50% of the U.S. population believes in psychic phenomena.

11. Van Gogh probably developed the symptoms that led to his hospitalization from absinthe poisoning.

12. Almost half of all married couples 75 and older still have sex on a regular basis (with each other).

13. Freud is widely taught at universities, except in psych departments.

14. Alcohol is involved in 90% of cases of sexual assault on college campuses.

15. Optimists don't always cope well with stress.

16.  Schizophrenia does NOT mean "split personality," but instead means a splitting of affect, thought, and behavior.

17. Rorschach's nickname as a child was "inkblot"

18. Milgram got it right (unfortunately).

19. Alfred Binet, inventor of first intelligence test, was trained as a lawyer.

20. Cats have almost 2X the number of neurons in their cortex than dogs.

21. The idea that there are "right brain" and "left brain" people is a myth.

22. Dreaming occurs during NREM as well as REM sleep.

23. Getting paid for doing something you like can make you less creative.

24. Smiling can make you feel happier.

25. Negative reinforcement works better than punishment as a disciplinary measure.

The next time you hear the "psychology=common sense" response, you'll have a great comeback!

*All of these are true.

To learn more about our fascinating field, check out these additional links:

Making sense of psychology headlines.

Why it's worth taking intro psych.

We've come a long way since Pavlov.

Psychology's Best Movies

If you'd like to test your psychology knowledge, you can take this Jeopardy! Psychology Trivia quiz

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, "Fulfillment at Any Age," to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting. 

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2011