What we believe can limit us
hat we believe can limit us. Unless new experiences change our beliefs, or we have the self-awareness and objectivity to check and see if they still hold true – they remain, distorting our self image and view of the world.
I love psychology and neural science. There are websites and magazines that I personally believe to be credible and trustworthy, but sometimes tenuous and dangerous ideas worm their way into peoples brains from non-credible sources and stay there. Like climate change not being a thing, or when Nelson Mandela died and internet people got him confused with Morgan Freeman (lol, not lol).
Recently, I needed to get hold of some academic research to support one of Social Safari’s key claims that social connection to others is essential to our mental health and vitality. As a non-academic kind of a gal, I usually like my information served up ‘easy-to-read’, but while researching, I was surprised to come across 3 not dangerous, but powerful ideas which have been widely accepted as fact and are still used in some schools and businesses today.
Why powerful? Faulty beliefs can have us throwing in the towel before we even start because we’re deemed “not creative” or “too introverted” or did not follow our passion early enough in life. Faulty beliefs can crush dreams.
So here are the facts about those 3 ideas: an out-of-date test, a label and a magic number.
Are you ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’?
Have you heard that right brain dominated people lean towards intuition, creativity and expression, while left-brained people are more adept at tasks involving logic, language and analytical thinking?
It’s a myth. You are as capable of sketching as you are of solving algebra problems. Your only limitation is how you go about learning and the kind of practice you put in. The two hemispheres of a healthy brain work together in total harmony.
Where does it come from?
During the 1960’s, Roger Wolcott Sperry studied the behaviour of 16 epilepsy sufferers after they had an operation, (called a corpus callosotomy) cutting the nerve fibres that join the two hemispheres of the brain to reduce the severity of the fits.
His findings on ‘the split brain’ attracted interest and by 1973, like a modern-day internet meme, the study had mutated to become a 15 page New York Times Magazine article titled, “We Are Left-Brained or Right-Brained” about left/right brain dominance.
Two years later, TIME and the Harvard Business Review printed the story and shortly afterwards, Psychology Today, a magazine whose purpose it is to make psychology literature more accessible to the general public, jumped on the bandwagon. The myth was created.
Roger Wolcott Sperry
Sperry, who went on to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine wisely cautioned “experimentally observed polarity in right-left cognitive style is an idea in general with which it is very easy to run wild.”
Myers–Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is a psychometric multiple choice questionnaire that determines which type of a possible 16, your personality falls into. Developed by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel 70 years ago, the type indicator continues to be used in some education facilities and workplaces, trusting this to be a scientifically proven indicator. It isn’t.
Studies show that between 39% and 76% of those tested will fall into a different type some weeks or years later, even the Myers-Briggs Foundation states it does not measure trait, ability, or character. Despite this, the test is still used by 89% of Fortune 100 companies in the US and 2 million people every year, creating a $20 million dollar a year industry.
How did the indicator come about?
Born in 1875, Katherine Briggs was home schooled by her father before receiving formal schooling until the age of 14. After college, she worked as a teacher and her interest in contemporary children’s educational and social developmental theories motivated her to create a vocation test for children.
|1917||Katherine defines 4 personality types: meditative, spontaneous, executive and sociable.|
|1923||Katherine reads psychologist Carl Jung’s book “Psychological Types” blowing her mind.|
|1923-43||Katherine and daughter Isabel incorporate Jung’s findings into their own observational research.|
|1943||Isabel registers the copyright on the original test (test A).|
|1947||Isabel’s father, the well-liked and highly esteemed physicist Lyman James Briggs*, mentions her work to the Dean of the George Washington School of Medicine, who permits Isabel to test the freshmen at his school.|
*James Briggs was the head of “The Uranium Committee”, a secret project to investigate the atomic fission of uranium between 1939–41, he was hugely respected in academic circles.
James Briggs’ credibility would have made an impression on the Dean, unwittingly giving the test more credence than it deserved. Even Jung re-examined his theories, redressing outdated conclusions, the Myers-Briggs indicator just hasn’t kept up.
Its time to move on and stop using it for anything but entertainment.
The 10,000 Hour Rule
“Outliers” is one of 4 best-selling social science books written by journalist, speaker and writer for The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell. The book’s premise is that in order to reach true expertise, factors like preparation, privilege, talent and being in the right place at the right time matter, but “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness”.
In the chapter “The 10,000 hour rule” he cites a study by K. Anders Ericsson, the study shows that on average 10,000-hours deliberate practice are required to become an expert violinist, but often fewer hours are required. Gladwell generalised this to make a “The 10,000 hour rule”. The sound bite caught people’s imaginations, even inspiring a song.
When Gladwell received criticism about the rule (as well as some salacious reputation battering), Ericsson declined to join in. Why? Because Outliers isn’t intended for use a textbook, it’s just social behaviour pop-culture.
However, Ericsson did speak out when the Association for Psychological Science Observer (a publication intended for academics) published an article by Eric Jaffe. Jaffe wrote: “Ericsson’s deliberate practice theory of elite performance, also called the 10,000 hour rule” then continued as if Gladwell’s rule was a part of Ericsson’s original research.
“At the very least they should not contain factually incorrect statements and avoid reinforcing existing misconceptions in the popular media.”
K. Anders Ericsson
In this awesome and detailed response to the article, Ericsson addresses the importance of accuracy in scientific journals saying “At the very least they should not contain factually incorrect statements and avoid reinforcing existing misconceptions in the popular media.”
Change your mind and change your world
The late Japanese psychotherapist Shoma Morita