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Alex
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Newbies, watch out for popular books

Best selling introductory psychology books give a misleading view of intelligence
From an article by Christian Jarrett

A researcher in human intelligence at Utah Valley University has analyzed the 29 best-selling introductory psychology textbooks in the US – some written by among the most eminent psychologists alive – and concluded that they present a highly misleading view of the science of intelligence.

Russell T Warne and his co-authors found that three-quarters of the books contain inaccuracies; that the books give disproportionate coverage to unsupported theories, and nearly 80 per cent contain logical fallacies in their discussions of the topic.

Reporting their findings in an open-access article in Archives of Scientific Psychology, Warne and his colleagues say that altogether the widely used books contained “43 inaccurate statements, 129 questionably accurate statements and 51 logical fallacies” and therefore “members of the public are likely to learn some inaccurate information about intelligence in their psychology courses.”

In terms of topic coverage, most of the books covered theories which are not well-supported by evidence, according to Warne. In contrast, fewer than a quarter of the books covered the most strongly supported contemporary, hierarchical theories, which posit the influence of a general intelligence on other cognitive abilities.

The most common factual inaccuracy (appearing in nearly half the books) was that intelligence tests are biased against particular groups or individuals. This contradicts the 1997 consensus statement which tackles this issue and concludes that “intelligence tests are not biased”.

Other common inaccuracies included promotion of the idea that it is not possible to measure intelligence in a meaningful way (in fact, Warne and his colleagues point out that “it is actually easier to measure intelligence than many other psychological constructs”), and claims that intelligence is only relevant in academic settings (in fact, intelligence correlates with many non-academic life outcomes, from life expectancy to risk of dying in a car accident, and is among the strongest predictors of career success).
Among the logical fallacies in the books is the idea that because humans share about 99 per cent of the same genes, that genes cannot therefore have a role in the differences between individuals or groups. In fact, “slight differences in genotypes among organisms can result in major phenotype differences”, according to Warne and his team. Twelve other fallacies appeared in the books; such as giving less scrutiny to politically correct ideas or claiming that intelligence doesn’t exist because it is a collection of abilities (suggesting the textbook authors had failed to understand the principle of 'general intelligence').

In terms of questionable accuracy (i.e. errors not covered by the consensus statements), Warne highlights issues around the discussion of the taboo topic of race and IQ; textbook authors overplaying the role of 'stereotype threat', and authors having a tendency to overestimate environmental influences on intelligence (the books largely neglected the work of scholars who study the genetic influences on intelligence).
Over a million students take introductory psych courses every year in the USA alone (a majority of whom are taking the course as part of a different degree subject), and judging by the content of most popular introductory psych textbooks in America, it seems likely these students are getting a highly distorted view of the field.

An obvious issue with this study is that it’s not clear if the same inaccuracies and bias toward intelligence research also appear in British and European introductory textbooks.
“Improving the public’s understanding about intelligence starts in psychology’s own backyard with improving the content of undergraduate courses and textbooks,” Warne and his colleagues conclude.

—What do undergraduates learn about human intelligence? An analysis of introductory psychology textbooks
full article here:
https://digest.bps.org.uk/2018/03/08/be … elligence/


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Alex
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Re: Newbies, watch out for popular books

Six 'psychological' terms that psychologists never use
August 8, 2018 by Peter Kinderman, The Conversation

Psychology is the scientific study of human thought and behaviour, and hence of everyday life, which means that many people consider themselves experts on the topic, even if they've never cracked the spine of a psychology textbook.

Armchair psychologists will bandy terms about, such as "neurotic" or "split personality", with little understanding of where these terms came from or even whether they're still in use. Here is a small selection of some of the psychological terms that are most frequently abused.

1. Personality type
The idea that people come in types – like flavours of ice cream – has a long history, dating back to the ancient Greeks. We talk about introverts and extroverts, narcissists and type A personality.
We don't fall into categories at all and our personalities are far from fixed. The best research we have tells us that we're all full of inconsistencies, and our characteristic personalities change a lot over our lives as we learn and adapt to the events and relationships we encounter.

2. Psychotic
The psychotic killer is one of the common tropes of cinema, and even respectable dictionaries will give synonyms such as "unhinged" or "frantic". But for psychologists and psychiatrists, psychotic isn't synonymous with dangerous or angry. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with serial killers – as in the horror trope of the psychotic killer on the prowl.

The term psychosis is used rather differently. It refers to a cluster of sometimes distressing experiences, such as hearing voices, unusual beliefs and confused speech, which are not usually, despite some lurid headlines, associated with murderous impulses.

3. Hysteria
The ancient Greeks believed that the womb (the hystera) detached itself and roamed around the body, putting pressure on other organs, causing "hysteria". During the Victorian era, the French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot further developed the concept of hysteria, saying that it was a mental phenomenon that could be cured with hypnosis.

In polite and scientific circles, we avoid using the term hysterical because the association of femininity with psychological vulnerability is as insulting as it is incorrect. Many societies are remarkably unequal in the opportunities extended to the genders, but the idea that women, by virtue of their gender, are prone to hysterical emotions is a degrading myth, started by the ancient Greeks and perpetuated by the Victorians.

4. Split personality
Screenwriters love the concept of "split personality", the idea that a person might have Jekyll and Hyde personalities, operating independently, unaware of each other. It's certainly true that we all have shifting and changing moods. Even our "personalities" are much less fixed than we'd assume, and perhaps more inconsistent than we'd like to believe.

Some people find that their emotions and self-esteem fluctuate greatly, and occasionally this causes problems. A handful of people find that their sense of who they are fluctuates so much that they describe themselves as having two or more personalities, but this is very rare indeed and, because of that, somewhat controversial.

This kind of experience is usually a consequence of traumatic childhood experiences, leaving the person with problems in making sense of their own emotions and relationships. It's important to recognise that childhood trauma can have lifelong consequences, but the Jekyll and Hyde character is pure fiction.

5. Neurotic
Neurosis (or neurotic) is another one of those technical words from psychiatry which, over time, has seen its meaning change, been incorporated into everyday language, and has then been used as a insult.

Originally, the "neuroses" were mental health problems characterised by distressing emotions, such as anxiety and depression, and distinguished from the "psychoses", characterised by experiences such as hearing voices or holding unusual beliefs. Over time, that meaning extended to refer to a 'personality trait' of "neuroticism", characterised by anxiety, moodiness, worry, envy and jealousy.
But, as we've established, it's scientifically inappropriate, and insulting, to refer to someone as "neurotic", when the science of personality traits simply doesn't support such a description. Some of us are more prone to anxiety and depression, and that's probably both an accurate and a respectful way to phrase it.

6. Brainwashed
Can people be brainwashed? Well, maybe, but not quite like the lurid headlines. We've seen tragedies like Jonestown, where hundreds of followers of the cult leader, Jim Jones, took their own lives under his direction. And, of course, we are currently informed about "radicalisation", as young, and often troubled, people are attracted to terrorist groups.

So it's clearly possible for people to be persuaded and coerced to commit terrible crimes. But when we talk about "brainwashing", we seem to assume that there are cunning psychological tricks that can manipulate the mind in ways known only to cults and intelligence agencies.

People, unfortunately, can be tricked, persuaded and coerced. But there's no secret brainwashing technique. We're vulnerable to conditioning; propaganda, bribery, the influence of others and peer pressure. If that's brainwashing, it's happening every day, and it's happening to us all.


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