14 Psych Myths We Learned From Movies That Are Totally False

It's pretty safe to say that after years of Sherlock Holmes adaptations and countless CBS crime procedurals (he was the supreme leader of a cult, but now he's leading the Supreme Court!) most people with a pretty steady diet of TV and movies think they're pretty good armchair psychologists.

If you learn of a prison riot on the news, you'll cite the Stanford prison experiment and claim that we're all just a baton and a uniform away from turning into monsters. If the news later reports of a man who stabbed his mother, you'll find a Freudian explanation for the crime that speaks of Oedipal repressed sexuality and the phallic nature of stabbings.

Bad news: turns out everything you learned about psychology from the shiny little box in the center of your living room isn't totally accurate. Not only do movies and TV shows take giant liberties with how psychology works, the psych field itself has a hard time getting out of its own way: studies can be biased for multiple reasons, the replication crisis impedes the verification of discoveries and news outlets only report on the grabbiest psych headlines and and skew the truth.

So on this week's podcast, we're putting a bunch of psych myths in a straight jacket, tossing them in a padded room and throwing away the key. Cracked's Jack O'Brien, Daniel O'Brien and Michael Swaim are joined by Peter McGraw, an expert in behavioral science and a marketing and psychology professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. They dispel pop-psych stories like the Milgram experiment, power posing and the Mozart effect.

Throw on your headphones and click "Play" above, go here to subscribe on iTunes, or download it here.

Also make sure to buy tickets to our next LIVE podcast taping on Saturday, December 10th at the UCB Sunset Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Jack and the crew will be giving a much needed, "good riddance" to the year 2016 with our annual Year In Review In Review. The Cracked staff and some special guests will fill in the gaps where most of of the other 'Years In Review' leave out half of the story. Tickets are only $5 and available here.


Peter McGraw

Video: Peter McGraw TED Talk

Article: Scientific American: Five Fallacies of Grief

Video: Elizabeth Loftus: How Reliable Is Your Memory

Video: Derren Brown Conversational Hypnosis

Article: The Atlantic: Questioning The Milgram Experiment

Article: New York Magazine: Is There an Antidote for Emotional Contagion

Article: New York Magazine: How the False Story of Kitty Genovese's Murder Went Viral

Article: Cracked: 5 Rediculous Lies You Probably Believe About Psychology (#3 Stanford Prison Experiment

Video: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (Power Posing TED Talk)

Article: Slate: The Power of the Power Pose

Article: The Verge: The Mozart Effect Myth

Article: Wired: Scanning Dead Salmon in fMRI Highlights Risk of Red Herrings

Article: Cracked: 6 Mental Illness Myths Hollywood Wants You To Believe (#4 ECT Therapy is Torture)

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