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Blowing The Whistle On Psychological Myths

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Blowing The Whistle On Psychological Myths

 

 

Here are examples of yesterday’s gold-standard psychological advice that today has tarnished. 

 

Rewards and punishment.  As summarized in this 2008 review of the literature, for decades, experts told us to reward desired behaviors and ignore but not punish undesirable ones. Common sense suggests that rewarding good behavior and punishing bad would be more effective but we trusted the experts. So countless parents and teachers struggled to ignore bad behavior. Yet a recent NIH-funded study found punishment to be more effective than praise. Another study, in Nature Neuroscience found that also to be true in motor tasks. Of course, two studies don’t make a literature but it makes one wonder if those countless parents and teachers might have been wise to let common sense be their guide and to both reward good behavior and punish bad. 

Meditation. Since the ’60s, experts have touted meditation as a stress reducer. Millions of seekers started saying their mantras even though skeptics wondered how saying a mantra for 20 minutes twice a day would reduce your stress for the other 23 hours and 20 minutes. Alas, the public’s common-sense skepticism has been borne out. The research, literature as summarized by University of Pennsylvania professor Adam Grant in an influential 2015 New York Times article, “Can We Stop With the Meditation Madness?” concludes that meditation is no more helpful in reducing stress than is quality sleep or exercise and is no more helpful in increasing “mindfulness” than are a host of less time-consuming suggestions. 

Read more:  The Flawed Psychological “Truths” of Yesterday

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