Why humans believe in pseudosciences

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The first chapter of the psychology book starts off by telling the reader that Psychology is a science, spends some much needed time telling us what Psychology is NOT, goes over the errors in ways of thinking in the field, gives us a history of the study, mentions different approaches, and finishes with some of the issues psychologists are debating to this day. I enjoyed its brief mention of Pseudoscience and the capacity of the human brain to believe in nonsensical ideas and sensational practices most. In this blog I go over some of the errors humans make that stood out in my readings.

I have always been fascinated as to how people can believe in Psychics, Feng Shui, and Energy Medicine. These things are explained as belonging to Pseudoscience. A Pseudoscience is defined in the text book as, "An imposter of science ... a set of claims that seem scientific but aren't."(pg 11) The book warns that these sciences can be directly dangerous, or secondarily, due to the patient often not receiving proper treatment.
Feng Shui
A very scientific looking instrument used to explain Feng Shui


One way the brain believes in such things is when an individual makes a claim that cannot be disproved. The book explains, for something to be scientifically tested, it must have "falsibility". A Pseudoscience often cannot be disproved. For instance, the image below shows energy crystals that supposedly help one's well being when placed on or near the body. The unreadable energy auras that every human has, is some how affected by these crystals. It would be very hard to prove, or disprove that they do not, in some way, make one feel better. It would be even harder to tell if the stones made one's undetectable energy field stronger.
EnergyCrystals.jpg
Energy Crystals used in Energy Medicine.

Belief Perseverance is another way of thinking the book warns psychologists away from. It explains the often-amazing conviction that people who practices Pseudoscience tend to exhibit. It is human nature for one who believes in something, to dislike the idea of being wrong. If one has invested in a career as a Feng Shui Advisor, he would be very uninterested in hearing that hours and maybe years of his life were wasted.

Correlation is not causation. When two events occur at the same time, we sometimes connect the two seemingly unrelated things. For instance, an individual may claim by practicing energy medicine, he or she has reduced the number of his or her anxiety attacks. The alteration of ones supposed energy fields probably has less to do with causing anxiety than other things. It may be that this individual is under less stress due to a changing of jobs, or his or her body better adapting to stress.
causation.jpg

Some problems I noticed from the reading are, while preaching that we must scientifically evaluate issues, some of the listed human behaviors in this chapter may have not been scientifically shown valid. Belief Perseverance sounds like a human trait, but have we found it to be prevalent in our every day behavior due to observation and experiment? Was it written because we just know it exists? The book criticized Pseudoscience, mentioning, "Americans with severe depression or anxiety attacks more often received scientifically unsupported treatments than scientifically supported treatments"(pg 19). Is the book saying that receiving non-scientific treatments is causing depression? It is possible that these people all ready had depression, and tried medical solutions before going to an alternative?

Over all, the entire chapter proved to be a lot less boring than I would suspect an introduction chapter of a book to be. It has all ready offered an explanation to a human behavior I have found very curious. The chapter convincingly explained the many ways our human brains make us believe in something that is not real.

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This page contains a single entry by mcnu0054 published on January 22, 2012 4:14 PM.

How well do standarized tests really measure our intelligence and creativity? was the previous entry in this blog.

Blog #1 Chapter 4 is the next entry in this blog.

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