5 Reasons Why Popular Psychology is EVIL

Popular psychology - popular concepts and theories about human mental life and behavior that are purportedly based on psychology

Why Popular Psychology is EVIL!

^did you know that if you electrocute a dog over and over every time it engages in a certain behaviour eventually it will disengage and learn to feel a sense of helplessness and despair? shock, horror (no pun intended)!^

I want to take a moment to celebrate my new found glory as editor. As for the subject title, if you've read many of my posts on here you may know I have a thing or two to say about this overly simplistic and reductionist trend of thinking. I'll admit that my own mind has been irreversibly corrupted by some of this dogma but thankfully I have gained the perceptiveness to see through a lot of it now.

Sure, this trend is better than the old psychiatric advice of "medicate him and if that doesn't work, institutionalise him!" but telling someone "just smile and you will feel better!" is not exactly a whole lot better either. I think the only thing that's kept me sane is knowing that there are other people (not many but still) that know this as well.

#5 The logical fallacies of generalisations and simplistic analogies

Either your an introvert or an extrovert. You're either a faux-nice guy or totally malicious. You're alpha or omega. Promiscuous or not promiscuous. The list goes on and on. Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a middle ground! You get to be an ambivert, or a good guy, or a beta male, or somebody that's sexually balanced. But the fundamental problem with these analogies is so ridiculously far from being addressed the truth really and truly could not be more distorted.

^Everyone needs to know the logical fallacies, seriously they should teach this stuff in school.

#4 Absolutely dismal state of affairs for dating advice

For guys this amounts to little more than be the initiator, pay for your lady, court her around for months and don't expect anything. Don't like these traditional gender role ideas? "Suck it up and be a man." Want to know how to hold conversation with a girl? "Stop overthinking things." Not having success with women? "You're not confident enough." Want to have structured approach to building rapport and maybe seducing someone? "You should stop analysing things, it's not a science."

^PUA is not that much better...

#3 Just open up to your friend/neighbour/therapist/etc. and everything will be just fine!

Sure this works for some people but not everyone. What if you had done something against the law and didn't feel able to open up? What if you were trying to protect somebody else and felt unable to open up about this?

What if you open up about something and you get advice about something from somebody who only has an incomplete picture? What if you open up and get given advice that sounds great but is actually totally dreadful? What if you are in an abusive relationship that is the cause of your problems and you are too afraid to share details on this? These are just some examples where turning to somebody does not always help.

#2 Marketing with bread crumbs: you can forget about concrete advice!

What's the go to advice if you are a socially awkward teenager or young adult, and you want advice for interacting with your peers? It's nearly always Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Infuence people". This book, written 80 years ago, tells you to smile, compliment people, don't compliment people falsely, listen to people and remember their names. Oh yes, and in the last two sections it tells you about leadership, how to criticise indirectly, inspire people by example and appeal to the nobler motives.

These are good general examples but it doesn't cover much ground such as assertive communication, being authoritative, human psychology, social dynamics and some of the things already mentioned - like how to make good conversation (yes, it is not that simple for everybody). His book is just an example: there is a whole wave of material that does the exact same stuff: gives out bread crumbs, doesn't actually help much with more general issues (oh that's right ... you need to see a therapist about that, how could I forget?).

#1 Confidence & self-esteem building: the placebo of popular psychology

^If a picture can speak a thousand words I think I just said 3 thousand.^

If these pictures don't already summarise the absurdity of such advice, maybe this mytake I wrote will shed some light. Still not convinced? Then take some time to answer these questions:

Would you teach a beginner boxer how to execute the jab, cross, hooks and uppercuts with proper form or would you say to them, "just punch harder"?

Would you teach somebody that was illiterate how to write with proper spelling, grammar and meaningful expression or would you advise them, "just grab a pen, paper and scribble down some ink"?

Would you teach somebody that was new to guitar how to read tab, use a pletrum and do the fingering near the frets or would you tell them, "just strum the guitar"?

When you see this in context like so, you see how meaningless the advice is. It's a dreadful idea to tell somebody who is bad at holding a conversation to just have more confidence. It never works to tell somebody with anxiety they just need to be themselves in social situations. And it is downright condescending to tell a man who does not know the first thing about women to just man up.

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So in short, this is the problem with the modern trends in popular psychology and other related trends like positive psychology, cognitive behaviour therapy, etc.


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  • Not sure you noticed when posting the photo. But the one with Liam Hemsworth is a joke. Because he has status, looks and money, but he's telling you confidence is all that matters lol. Sarcasm meme. Good take, just made me laugh lol

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    • Yeah I realised it was sarcastic, that's why I thought it was relevant to my point about self-esteem related advice being a simplification/missing the point. Of course Liam Hemsworth would not think its about looks or status because he already has those things.

  • I think if humans never studied psychology and we took a blind eye and ignorance to it, our world would be a better place. The mental health care system is the absolute worst.

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    • Psychology is not the problem here: popular psychology is.

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    • It's just the methods of psychology seems too unethical for me especially mental health care. It brands people who are socially different as psychopaths, sociopaths, autistic, ahdh and having these labels are very negative to have. Being a psychopath isn't a bad thing if you aren't a threat to other people's health and safety. Infact the lack of emotions is such a benefit that I wish I had.

    • 'Infact the lack of emotions is such a benefit that I wish I had.'

      I would not go as far as to say this. Not being able to empathise with other humans you are missing out on a world of communication of feelings and other such stuff. But yes, a psychopath is not necessarily a threat unless he has proven to be uninhibited (reckless and fearless of consequence).

  • Nailed it!

    Indeed, a lot of it is pseudo-science, not very different from tarot or astrology. However, there is some hope for psychology, that is, some people who try to actually base its ideas not on anecdotal evidence or hunches or such, but actual evidence, like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce31WjiVcY0

    The best I can say about psychology, is that it is a sort of alchemy, a precursor to the neuro-sciences.

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    • Yeah scientific psychology is not a problem it's just the mainstream tend of pseudo-scientific 'popular psychology', 'self-help' and I'm gonna throw PUA in there too because for guys a lot of self-esteem issues originate from sexual unfulfilment so they turn to PUA for help. But PUA uses a lot of positive psychology stuff I criticise - and that is ignoring all the canned material b. s. that comes with it.

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