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  • You've heard of your I.Q., your general intelligence,

  • but what's your Psy-Q?

  • How much do you know about what makes you tick,

  • and how good are you at predicting other people's behavior

  • or even your own?

  • And how much of what you think you know about psychology is wrong?

  • Let's find out by counting down the top 10 myths of psychology.

  • You've probably heard it said that when it comes to their psychology,

  • it's almost as if men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

  • But how different are men and women really?

  • To find out, let's start by looking at something

  • on which men and women really do differ

  • and plotting some psychological gender differences on the same scale.

  • One thing men and women do really differ on

  • is how far they can throw a ball.

  • So if we look at the data for men here,

  • we see what is called a normal distribution curve.

  • A few men can throw a ball really far, and a few men not far at all,

  • but most a kind of average distance.

  • And women share the same distribution as well,

  • but actually there's quite a big difference.

  • In fact, the average man can throw a ball further

  • than about 98 percent of all women.

  • So now let's look at what some psychological gender differences

  • look like on the same standardized scale.

  • Any psychologist will tell you

  • that men are better at spatial awareness than women --

  • so things like map-reading, for example -- and it's true,

  • but let's have a look at the size of this difference.

  • It's tiny; the lines are so close together they almost overlap.

  • In fact, the average woman is better than 33 percent of all men,

  • and of course, if that was 50 percent,

  • then the two genders would be exactly equal.

  • It's worth bearing in mind that this difference, the next one I gonna show you

  • are pretty much the biggest psychological gender differences

  • ever discovered in psychology.

  • So here's the next one.

  • Any psychologist will tell you that women are better

  • with language and grammar than men.

  • So here's performance on the standardized grammar test.

  • There go the women. There go the men.

  • Again, yes, women are better on average, but the lines are so close

  • that 33 percent of men are better than the average woman,

  • and again, if it was 50 percent,

  • that would represent complete gender equality.

  • So it's not really a case of Mars and Venus.

  • It's more a case of, if anything, Mars and Snickers:

  • basically the same, but one's maybe slightly nuttier than the other.

  • I won't say which.

  • Now we've got you warmed up.

  • Let's psychoanalyze you using the famous Rorschach inkblot test.

  • So you can probably see two, I dunno, two bears or two people or something.

  • But what do you think they're doing?

  • Put your hand up if you think they're saying hello.

  • Not many people. Okay.

  • Put your hands up if you think they are high-fiving.

  • Okay. What if you think they're fighting?

  • Only a few people there.

  • Okay, so if you think they're saying hello or high-fiving,

  • then that means you're a friendly person.

  • If you think they're fighting,

  • you're a bit more of a nasty, aggressive person.

  • Are you a lover or a fighter, basically.

  • What about this one?

  • This isn't really a voting one, so on three everyone shout out what you see.

  • One, two, three. (Audience shouting)

  • I heard hamster. Who said hamster?

  • That was very worrying.

  • A guy there said hamster.

  • Well, you should see some kind of two-legged animal here,

  • and then the mirror image of them there.

  • If you didn't, then this means that you have difficulty

  • processing complex situations where there's a lot going on.

  • Except, of course, it doesn't mean that at all.

  • Rorschach inkblot tests have basically no validity

  • when it comes to diagnosing people's personality

  • and are not used by modern-day psychologists.

  • In fact, one recent study found that when you do try

  • to diagnose people's personalities using Rorschach inkblot tests,

  • schizophrenia was diagnosed

  • in about one sixth of apparently perfectly normal participants.

  • So if you didn't do that well on this,

  • maybe you are not a very visual type of person.

  • So let's do another quick quiz to find out.

  • When making a cake, do you prefer to -- so hands up for each one again --

  • do you prefer to use a recipe book with pictures?

  • Yeah, a few people.

  • Have a friend talk you through?

  • Or have a go, making it up as you go along?

  • Quite a few people there.

  • Okay, so if you said A,

  • then this means that you are a visual learner

  • and you learn best when information is presented in a visual style.

  • If you said B, it means you're an auditory learner,

  • that you learn best when information is presented to you in an auditory format.

  • And if you said C, it means that you're a kinesthetic learner,

  • that you learn best when you get stuck in and do things with your hands.

  • Except, of course, as you've probably guessed,

  • that it doesn't, because the whole thing is a complete myth.

  • Learning styles are made up and are not supported by scientific evidence.

  • So we know this because in tightly controlled experimental studies,

  • when learners are given material to learn

  • either in their preferred style or an opposite style,

  • it makes no difference at all to the amount of information that they retain.

  • And if you think about it for just a second,

  • it's just obvious that this has to be true.

  • It's obvious that the best presentation format

  • depends not on you, but on what you're trying to learn.

  • Could you learn to drive a car, for example,

  • just by listening to someone telling you what to do

  • with no kinesthetic experience?

  • Could you solve simultaneous equations

  • by talking them through in your head and without writing them down?

  • Could you revise for your architecture exams

  • using interpretive dance if you're a kinesthetic learner?

  • No. What you need to do is match the material to be learned

  • to the presentation format, not you.

  • I know many of you are A-level students

  • that will have recently gotten your GCSE results.

  • And if you didn't quite get what you were hoping for,

  • then you can't really blame your learning style,

  • but one thing that you might want to think about blaming is your genes.

  • So what this is all about is a recent study at University College London

  • found that 58 percent of the variation

  • between different students and their GCSE results

  • was down to genetic factors.

  • That sounds like a very precise figure, so how can we tell?

  • Well, when we want to unpack the relative contributions

  • of genes and the environment,

  • what we can do is do a twin study.

  • So identical twins share 100 percent of their environment

  • and 100 percent of their genes,

  • whereas non-identical twins share 100 percent of their environment,

  • but just like any brother and sister, share only 50 percent of their genes.

  • So by comparing how similar GCSE results are in identical twins

  • versus non-identical twins,

  • and doing some clever math,

  • we can an idea of how much variation and performance is due to the environment

  • and how much is due to genes.

  • And it turns out that it's about 58 percent due to genes.

  • So this isn't to undermine the hard work that you and your teachers here put in.

  • If you didn't quite get the GCSE results that you were hoping for,

  • then you can always try blaming your parents, or at least their genes.

  • One thing that you shouldn't blame

  • is being a left-brained or right-brained learner,

  • because again, this is a myth.

  • So the myth here is that the left brain is logical,

  • it's good with equations like this,

  • and the right brain is more creative, so the right brain is better at music.

  • But again, this is a myth because nearly everything that you do

  • involves nearly all parts of your brain talking together,

  • even just the most mundane thing like having a normal conversation.

  • However, perhaps one reason why this myth has survived

  • is that there is a slight grain of truth to it.

  • So a related version of the myth

  • is that left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people,

  • which kind of makes sense because your brain controls the opposite hands,

  • so left-handed people,

  • the right side of the brain is slightly more active

  • than the left-hand side of the brain,

  • and the idea is the right-hand side is more creative.

  • Now, it isn't true per se

  • that left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people.

  • What is true that ambidextrous people,

  • or people who use both hands for different tasks,

  • are more creative thinkers than one-handed people,

  • because being ambidextrous involves

  • having both sides of the brain talk to each other a lot,

  • which seems to be involved in creating flexible thinking.

  • The myth of the creative left-hander

  • arises from the fact that being ambidextrous

  • is more common amongst left-handers than right-handers,

  • so a grain of truth in the idea of the creative left-hander,

  • but not much.

  • A related myth that you've probably heard of

  • is that we only use 10 percent of our brains.

  • This is, again, a complete myth.

  • Nearly everything that we do, even the most mundane thing,

  • uses nearly all of our brains.

  • That said, it is of course true

  • that most of us don't use our brainpower quite as well as we could.

  • So what could we do to boost our brainpower?

  • Maybe we could listen to a nice bit of Mozart.

  • Have you heard of the idea of the Mozart effect?

  • So the idea is that listening to Mozart makes you smarter

  • and improves your performance on I.Q. tests.

  • Now again, what's interesting about this myth

  • is that although it's basically a myth, there is a grain of truth to it.

  • So the original study found that

  • participants who were played Mozart music for a few minutes

  • did better on a subsequent I.Q. test

  • than participants who simply sat in silence.

  • But a follow-up study recruited some people who liked Mozart music

  • and then another group of people

  • who were fans of the horror stories of Stephen King.

  • And they played the people the music or the stories.

  • The people who preferred Mozart music to the stories

  • got a bigger I.Q. boost from the Mozart than the stories,

  • but the people who preferred the stories to the Mozart music

  • got a bigger I.Q. boost from listening to the Stephen King stories

  • than the Mozart music.

  • So the truth is that listening to something that you enjoy

  • perks you up a bit and gives you a temporary I.Q. boost

  • on a narrow range of tasks.

  • There's no suggestion that listening to Mozart,

  • or indeed Stephen King stories,

  • is going to make you any smarter in the long run.

  • Another version of the Mozart myth

  • is that listening to Mozart can make you not only cleverer but healthier, too.

  • Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be true

  • of someone who listened to the music of Mozart almost every day,

  • Mozart himself,

  • who suffered from gonorrhea, smallpox, arthritis,

  • and, what most people think eventually killed him in the end, syphilis.

  • This suggests that Mozart should have bit more careful, perhaps,

  • when choosing his sexual partners.

  • But how do we choose a partner?

  • So a myth that I have to say is sometimes spread a bit by sociologists

  • is that our preferences in a romantic partner are a product of our culture,

  • that they're very culturally specific.

  • But in fact, the data don't back this up.

  • A famous study surveyed people from [37] different cultures across the globe,

  • from Americans to Zulus,

  • on what they look for in a partner.

  • And in every single culture across the globe,

  • men placed more value on physical attractiveness in a partner

  • than did women,

  • and in every single culture, too,

  • women placed more importance than did men on ambition and high earning power.

  • In every culture, too,

  • men preferred women who were younger than themselves,

  • an average of, I think it was 2.66 years,

  • and in every culture, too,

  • women preferred men who were older than them,

  • so an average of 3.42 years,

  • which is why we've got here "Everybody needs a Sugar Daddy."

  • So moving on from trying to score with a partner

  • to trying to score in basketball or football or whatever your sport is.

  • The myth here is that sportsmen go through hot-hand streaks, Americans call them,

  • or purple patches, we sometimes say in England,

  • where they just can't miss, like this guy here.