Research findings in psychology cover a dizzying array of topics from childhood developmental disorders to economic decision making in business settings. Here is a sample of 10 true-or-false items that nicely illustrate the breadth of research in psychology.
1. True or False? Our brains are fully developed at birth.
FALSE. Newborn babies show an average brain size of 350cm3. The average volume of an adult brain clocks in at 1200 cm3. Also, the prefrontal cortex only fully develops between 16-18 years of age. The brain develops from the stem up with prefrontal cortex developing last. This is important because this part of the brain governs certain aspects of personality, conscientiousness, and inhibition of impulses. Damage or developmental delay to this brain region is often associated with impulse control issues.
2. True or False? People usually fall in love with someone very different from themselves. Put another way, opposites attract.
FALSE. There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to make friends and fall in love with others who are very similar to themselves (age, ethnicity, religion, height, etc.). Imagine finding out during a blind date that the other person hates your favorite restaurant, band, TV shows, and has never once voted for the political party you belong to. Few of us would conclude, “I think I’m in love!”
3. True or False? Blind people have a more sensitive sense of hearing and touch.
TRUE. Blind folks tend to have a greater representation for alternative senses but there is nothing exceptional about their sensory receptors. The sensory receptors in the hands and ears are the same, but the area of cortex devoted to processing that information is larger. Most visual information ends up being processed by the occipital lobe in the back of the brain. Since blind people do not have visual data coming in to that brain region it can be co-opted by other sensory systems (touch, hearing, etc.)
4. True or False? Everyone dreams if they sleep long enough.
TRUE. Everyone dreams. Assuming you stay asleep long enough to get into the REM stage you will be dreaming. The issue of recalling details about your dreams is a different one entirely. A significant number of people have trouble remembering their dreams, perhaps leading to the belief that there were not dreaming in the first place.
5. True or False? Humans only use 10% of their brains.
FALSE. Would you be able to function normally if 90% of your brain was removed? The consequences are often disastrous even for people who lose a small percentage of cortex due to surgery or stroke, etc. Physiologically speaking, you make use of your entire brain. Just like you use all of your right elbow and your heart, there is blood flow and chemical activity throughout the brain.
6. True or False? Cult members are dumb, gullible sheep
FALSE. Studies show cult members are just as intelligent as the general non-cult public. And around 95 percent of cult members are perfectly sane (when they join up, anyway), with no history at all of real psychological problems. As social animals we are hard-wired to want to belong to a group. It is a need as basic and real as hunger or sex. Cults are very good at finding people in that exact moment of weakness, and saying exactly the right things. Potent cult leaders are skilled at providing a safe haven from the chaos of the outside world by offering one of the most fundamental human desires: the need to belong and be accepted.
7. True or False? If you let your anger out now, you’ll be better in the long run.
FALSE. If anything, you will end up reinforcing the anger and you will be more likely to get angry and aggressive the next time you get frustrated. The widespread belief that it is better – and almost necessary – to let off steam on an inanimate object goes back to the early days of psychoanalysis when anger was portrayed as a valve that had to be released from time to time. Failure to do so could result in inappropriate and uncontrollable rage spilling out sideways from the individuals.
8. True or False? Touch is the first sense to develop in the fetus during pregnancy?
TRUE. Touch is the first sense to develop. A developing fetus responds to touch of the lips and cheeks by 8 weeks and to other parts of its body at 14 week. Taste and Hearing follow soon after.
9. True or False? In human beings, the part of the brain corresponding to the mouth is bigger than the brain area corresponding to the entire leg.
TRUE. This is the case because more sensory receptors reside in the mouth than in the leg. In other words, the brain and mouth are communicating more than the brain and leg. Even though your legs take up approximately 50% of your body, much less than 50% of the primary motor cortex in the brain is dedicated to communicating with the legs.
FALSE. Schizophrenia and split personality are completely different disorders. They are associated with separate categories in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), yet people often incorrectly use the terms interchangeably. Hollywood seems to be guilty of this all too often as well. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that involves a split (schism) between external reality and the perception of reality. Split personality (or multiple personality), by comparison is very rare and is officially known as dissociative identity disorder, although the diagnosis is much more controversial than schizophrenia.
~ Mark Twain