Cognitive Science: An Introduction/Myths about Cognition

Myths about CognitionEdit

Cognitive science can be utilized to debunk the myths and mysteries of modern day misconceptions: it can be used to discern the facts from the frauds, the truths from the tales, the certainties from the conundrums. This field of science can elucidate the reasons for why it is widely believed — and, more drastically so, vastly accepted — that people are capable of possessing a sixth sense of sorts, psychic powers which can predict future events, offer insight on other’s thought processes, and even serve as a medium into the realm of those whose souls have now passed beyond our dimension. As farfetched, fictitious, and utterly flabbergasting as it may sound, the number of people who blindly abide by the acceptance of these ludicrous claims has reached an ill-conceivable high; it is easy to fall prey to being blindsided by the myths of our world — eight, in particular, which will be examined in detail — and here’s why:

Our Brain CapacityEdit

The first myth in cognitive science can be put, in layman’s terms, as the popular adage that “we only use 10% of our brains.” In actuality, that statement is false:[1] the brain functions as a whole, not just parts at a time. The controversial belief, however, derives from the fact that a large majority of our mental processes occur at a subconscious level, which may in turn invoke a misunderstanding that these functions are not ensuing at all, due to our inability to consciously acknowledge them. And albeit we may be incapable of actively recognizing these subconscious processes, there are numerous instances that support the claims that we do, in fact, utilize every part of our brain. For example, an individual who has suffered trauma to the brain, in spite of the damage only being to one particular spot of the organ, may retain the consequences of the injury and suffer a deficit for the rest of one’s life.[1] Both the availability cascade and wishful thinking can be largely held responsible for why this myth has become so mainstream: people seek reassurance in a notion which demonstrates complex ideas in a simple manner, especially if these ideas pertain to something not short of the paranormal.

Psychic PowersEdit

The same can be said, if not more so, for the popularized myth of psychic powers. In spite of the avid research and myriad studies demonstrating otherwise[2], people are convinced that we, as humans, are capable of developing E.S.P, a sixth sense of sorts, and there are several biases which may offer reasoning behind this misconception. For instance, the confirmation bias, partnering with wishful thinking, builds on the preexisting beliefs and theories of someone that wants something to be true; given that a person wishes to believe psychic powers to be real, they would wholeheartedly accept that psychics possess these abilities, for these mediums have existed in society for such a prolonged long time, and, as such, their “powers” must be real. Accompanying the confirmation bias is the neglect of negative results, which speaks for itself, in that one will refuse to accept any negative responses to one’s beliefs pertaining to a subject or concept that one feels most strongly for.

Listening to Music as a BabyEdit

Such is also the case for those parents who believe that having their babies listen to Mozart will in turn make these children more intelligent. In truth[3], the effects of this sort of stimulation are short term, and derive from the audio arousal the babies experience. For this reason, the same sort of arousal would come from reading a passage of a Stephen King novel.

Behaviour during Full MoonsEdit

Moreover, the confirmation bias has been utilized in the widespread belief that the full moon can cause a noticeable change in one’s behaviour, for its longstanding arguments have been circulating societies for ages. Most would argue that the moon’s gravitational pull and effect on the tides of the Earth may influence our personalities, because humans are composed mostly of water, which, conclusively, is a false argument[4], due to the fact that a mosquito’s weight on one’s arm would possess more of a gravitational pull on oneself than the moon does.

IQ TestsEdit

Another common myth circulating in today’s world is that tests measuring one’s intelligence quotient are biased. In fact, IQ tests have been proven to be very much valid[5], for each test is evaluated by a panel of scientists with differentiating viewpoints in order to determine validity, and item analysis is also implemented to detect and remove any potentially faulty test questions. Because these IQ tests do not under-predict later success for certain groups while over-predicting the same for others, it can be concluded that these assessments are, indeed, not biased.

The Pursuit of HappinessEdit

The myths of cognitive science, furthermore, do not apply only for redundant fallacies, but can even be found surrounding more profound topics. For instance, there are myriad myths which surround the pursuit of happiness, especially in terms of financial stability. The truth of the matter is that, depending on one’s income, money can influence happiness[6]. In fact, until one’s annual income is greater than or equal to $75,000, wealth has been found to greatly influence happiness, after which, it seems to level out.

Genetics vs. Life EventsEdit

Moreover, along the lines of happiness, it has also been proven that life events do not influence one’s happiness nearly as much as one’s genetics do[6] . Genes have been shown to affect roughly 60% of one’s happiness, whereas major events in one’s life — such as winning the lottery or becoming paraplegic — only affects one’s happiness for several months at a time. The only instances when happiness seems to drastically suffer the effects of life events pertain to situations of more lengthy periods, namely the loss of one’s job or the suffering of a divorce, but even then a large portion of one’s happiness was shown to rely still on genetics.

Child AbuseEdit

Along the lines of profound topics comes the myth that childhood abuse leads to later psychological disorders, which has, in actuality, been proven to be very weakly connected[7], with a correlation of 0.09. In truth, conflict ridden homes, such as those burdened with divorces or other sorts of emotional traumas, have been proven to, much more often, cause numerous sorts of psychological disorders, specifically depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.

Artificial IntelligenceEdit

The last, and if not one of the most important myths of cognitive science, deals with those who believe that the advances made in the technologies of Artificial Intelligence are failures. This myth, however, has been easily disproven[8],

due to all the huge successes of A.I and its accompanying researchers; it has been suggested that today’s economy would collapse without all the findings and contributions of Artificial Intelligence.

Myths about Cognition: A ConclusionEdit

Ultimately, in a world as dynamic and ever-changing as the one in which we all live, where the copious fields of science are working hand in hand to develop, create, innovate, research, and discover, it is only natural that those beliefs we may have once held are also changing, shaping to match the discoveries of the world’s pioneers. What might have been considered factual in the past may now be considered fictitious; we are constantly shaping and reshaping our knowledge, continuing to unlock more of the universe’s secrets. The aforementioned myths, while understandable in the foundation of their ontology, have also been proven to be erroneous. It is only a matter of time until more of our commonly held beliefs are defined, and redefined, with science, proving that our influx of knowledge is just as dynamic as we, ourselves are, as people.

  1. a b Radford, B. (1999). The Ten-Percent Myth. California: Cuyamaca College.
  2. Wiseman, R. and Watt, C. (2006). Belief in psychic ability and the misattribution hypothesis: A qualitative review. Leicester: The British Psychological Society.
  3. Reuell, P. (2013). Muting the Mozart effect. Cambridge: Harvard College.
  4. Chudler, E.H. (2007). The power of the full moon. Running on empty? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. Hampshire, A and Owen, R. R. (2012). Fractionating Human Intelligence. London: University of Western Ontario.
  6. a b Deaton, A. and Kahneman, D. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Princeton: Princeton University.
  7. Lilienfeld, S. 0., et al. (2009). 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.
  8. Chun, A. (2014). Artificial Intelligence - Success Stories. Kowloon Tong: City University of Hong Kong.