A few years ago I was tutoring first year psychology students. For their essay they had a choice of writing about hemispheric function or another topic (personality) and I was surprised at how many chose the neuroscience one which I thought would be perceived as a harder topic. The aim of the essay was to determine if students could sift the popular myths about hemispheric function from the scientific findings. Even though they were given assigned readings that specifically stated that popular myths about the artistic right brain and the logical left brain were not supported by research, a large number of students parroted these myths as if they were true. One egregious fellow even went so far as to completely make up a study that confirmed the myths were right after all! (I wasn't sure which was dumber: that he misunderstood the subject or that he thought that I would not get suspicious about his made up "research"!) Fortunately, the more able students did get the message. I'm still not sure why so many students found this so hard to understand. Some of them probably did not take the assignment very seriously and just repeated factoids that they had read. I suspect though that some of them were just not very bright. It probably takes a considerable amount of intellectual sophistication to grasp subtle concepts and reject intuitively appealing yet simplistic myths. The myths might persist because most people either do not make the intellectual effort to understand a more complex view when a simpler one is available or because the more complex view is too hard for some people to understand.

More Posts