Psychomythics: Sources of Artifacts and Misconceptions in Scientific Psychology

Psychomythics: Sources of Artifacts and Misconceptions in Scientific Psychology

Psychomythics: Sources of Artifacts and Misconceptions in Scientific Psychology

Psychomythics: Sources of Artifacts and Misconceptions in Scientific Psychology


Psychology deals with the most complex subject matter of any science. As such, it is subject to misunderstandings, artifacts, and just simple errors of data, logic, and interpretation. This book teases out the details of some of the sources of these errors. It considers errors in psychological data and theories that arise from confusing endogenous and exogenous causal forces in perceptual research, misinterpreting the effects of inevitable natural laws as psychological phenomena, improper application of statistics and measurement, and flawed assumptions. Examples of each of these sources of error are presented and discussed. Finally, the book concludes that a return to a revitalized kind of behaviorism is preferred, rather than continuing on the current cognitive path.


This has been a very difficult book for me to write. in it, I embark on a critique of a science of which I have been a part for almost half a century. It is a science of the utmost importance, perhaps more so than any other, as it asks the question: What is the nature of human mentation?

However, important as it is and as far reaching as are the discoveries of scientific psychology, this science is characterized by some of the most recalcitrant and refractory problems ever encountered. Sheer complexity is the least of the challenges faced by scientific psychology; perhaps even more significant are the interactions that any study of mental activity or behavior (take your choice) has with so many other views of our place in nature and in society. So much of what we try to do and so many of the discoveries we make conflict with the goals and aspirations of other approaches to understanding the mysteries of human existence.

We are making some progress, of this there is no doubt. But, what is becoming increasingly clear to me as the years go by is that there is much, much more that we do not know and perhaps even more seriously, much that we cannot know. the result of this mix of importance, relevance, our desire to know, complexity, and intrinsic difficulty is that there is a tremendous opportunity for mistaken or incorrect ideas, concepts, and theories to develop and then become entrenched in psychological thinking. I call these erroneous beliefs about the nature of mind psychomyths. By a myth I refer to that part of the dictionary definition that uses this term to denote "a fiction or a half truth, particularly one that is associated with an ideology."

By a psychomyth, I specifically refer to those mistaken ideas about the nature of mind and the relationship it has to the neural substrate that produces it. Psychomyths arise out of a multitude of misinterpreted experiments, leaps of logic, fallacious assumptions, ignored caveats from other sciences, and misunderstanding of the limited power of the tools that are used by psychologists to study their chosen topics. They also arise out of extrascientific approaches to the study of behavior or mind that impact on and distort scientific findings.

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