Harmful but Widely Believed Myths
Common and Harmful Legends
COMMON MYTHS IN POPULAR CULTURE AND CLINICAL PRACTICE5>
All of the following beliefs have been discredited by empirical evidence:
(Compiled by NCRJ Advisor, Dr. Carol Tavris)
- Most abused children become abusive parents (the “cycle of abuse”).
- Low self-esteem causes aggressiveness, drug use, and low achievement.
- Children never lie about sexual abuse.
- Childhood trauma invariably produces emotional symptoms that carry on into adulthood.
- Traumatic experiences are usually repressed.
- Memory works like tape recorder, clicking on at birth and accurately recording everything that happens.
- Hypnosis can reliably uncover buried or “repressed” memories.
- Subliminal messages influence behavior—for example, they can cause disturbed teenagers to commit murder or suicide.
- Children who masturbate or “play doctor” have probably been sexually molested.
- If left unexpressed, anger builds up like steam in a teapot until it explodes.
- Projective tests like the Rorschach validly diagnose personality disorders and most mental disorders.
- Survivors of disasters need therapy to recover and avoid developing posttraumatic stress disorder.
- Innocent people cannot be coerced into confessing to a crime they did not commit.