Scott Lilienfeld - Real Self-Help
Posted: 19 March 2010 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  170
Joined  2009-06-02

Dr. Scott Lilienfeld is Professor of Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta. Scott is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a Consulting Editor for Skeptical Inquirer and the Founder and Editor of the CSI journal Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. He’s a regular contributor to Scientific American Mind, and is Psychology Today’s Skeptical Psychologist, where he investigates questionable, controversial, and novel claims in psychology. His principal areas of research include evidence-based practices in psychology and the challenges posed by pseudoscience to clinical psychology.

In this conversation with Karen Stollznow, Scott discusses his latest book, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior, co-written with Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and the late Barry Beyerstein. The book treats a staggering 300 urban legends, myths and misconceptions; this is the “Mythbusters” of psychology.

Scott explains the difference between psychology and “pop psychology”, which is fraught with what he calls “psychomythology”. He discusses how myths develop and disseminate, and he reports that even the experts can be deceived by these commonly-held beliefs. These myths are unpredictable blends of fact and (mostly) fiction, but as we find out, fact is sometimes even stranger than fiction.

Scott busts some surprising myths, and argues for the importance of myth busting. When we believe in these myths there are often real-world consequences, but debunking itself carries risks. He discusses how to counter these myths and the “unsinkable ducks”, and how to critically evaluate future claims as we’re presented with them.

Aiming to “demystify psychology”, Scott is an advocate for the effective communication of psychology to the public, and also for science-based psychology. He considers the unreliability of our intuition, gut-feelings and our (not-so) common sense, and how science is “uncommon sense”.

Scott admits that human experience makes us all armchair psychologists, and we are all susceptible to Dr. Phil-psychology and self-help books. But self-help is more often hindrance than help. Backed up by science, this book is the real self-help.

Posted: 20 March 2010 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Sr. Member
Total Posts:  2423
Joined  2007-09-03

“The Mythbusters of Psychology”

Great Interview—Karen Stollznow digs into this new book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior.  Lilenfield is articulate and has hundreds of examples at his fingertips.

This interview complements Chris Mooney’s POI podcasts as well, because communicating science involves both accuracy of information and a good story—and the “good stories” highlighted here completely overwhelmed the facts (!).

The interview cover “blind spots” and confirmation bias—we can see the fallacies of others but have a hard time on our own.
Examples of myths in interview are lie detectors and the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” oversimplification.

A really thorough review can be found at Science-Based Medicine at
This link has more of the examples discussed in the interview, such as this one about learning:

Students learn best when teaching styles are matched to their learning styles. This turns out to be an urban legend not supported by any acceptable evidence. It could backfire because students need to correct and compensate for their shortcomings, not avoid them. The authors cite a satirical story from The Onion about nasal learners demanding an odor-based curriculum.

Note: same Harriett Hall review of the book is in the 2/24/2010 eSKEPTIC at

[ Edited: 20 March 2010 05:28 PM by Jackson ]
Posted: 20 March 2010 03:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Jr. Member
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2010-03-20

Lilienfeld is a rational port in a storm of idiocy and charlatanism that rages on in Clinical Psychology.  It’s a sad truth that many clinicians never take a course in REAL science after their undergraduate requirements have been met. This makes them not only more susceptible to pseudo-science personally, but also sets up the conditions for them to spread such nonsense to their clients, students, and fellow practitioners.

I haven’t read Lilienfeld’s latest book, but I’ve been very impressed by several of his articles, as well as by his choice of authors for the numerous sections in “Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology,” a book I require my Abnormal Psychology students to read each semester.  He didn’t just grab up any old psychologists to write that book; instead, he went to the TOP people in each sub-discipline, allowing THEM to address the topics as professionals who can speak with intimate knowledge about what we know is (and isn’t) true, based on the research.


P.S.  An earlier commenter mentioned the myth of “learning styles,” and I couldn’t agree more.  Many of the people in my doctoral classes (this degree was in Education, mind you!), as well as most of my colleagues at the college where I teach, have fallen hook-line-and-sinker for that Gardner stuff, and I’ve always been suspicious. In true SF Bay Area style, they’ve taken it even further in some cases, suggesting that we also try to accommodate students’ short attention spans (“Today’s young people don’t have the patience to read like we did!”), and even their unwillingness to take Friday classes (“If they won’t come, we should just teach Monday through Thursday!”).  My attitude has always been, “Isn’t a college experience supposed to challenge you, and make you develop abilities you didn’t have before, rather than defer to your current “styles” or “abilities?”

Posted: 07 June 2013 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Total Posts:  30
Joined  2008-03-18

Maybe not the best place to say this,  but the playback interface on the web page is difficult to use if you need to scroll back to re-listen for example, also no time display.