Category: Questionable Science


50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behaviorby Scott Lilienfeld, Steven Lynn, John Ruscio, and Barry Beyerstein.

Do most people in their 40’s to early 50’s experience a midlife crisis? Do psychiatric admissions go up during a full moon? Can playing Mozart to infants boost their intelligence? Do most people only use 10% of their brain power? Is low self-esteem a major cause of psychological problems?

From Oprah and Dr. Oz to the nightly news, we are constantly exposed to psychological concepts on a daily basis.  While some of this information is factual and can be useful, a great deal of what we believe to be true is actually myth and misconception.  Professors Lilienfeld, Lynn, and Ruscio have taken on the task of “Mythbusting” in the field of Psychomythology.  This is a refreshing and fun look at many of the concepts that have been accepted as fact by our popular culture.  It is refreshing to find a scientific, evidence-based approach to psychological ideas in a time that has become so dominated by subjective experience.  This books reviews 50 of the most popular psychological myths and explores both the facts and misconceptions  surrounding each of these topics.  This book is sure to spur interesting conversations at your next cocktail party or social gathering.  Prepare to join the ranks of the Mythbusters as you will soon be equipped to set the record straight.

No! Saliva tests to measure the levels of Serotonin, estrogen, progesterone, melatonin, testosterone, or DHEA are almost never legitimate, are expensive, and do not provide any clinically meaningful information to health care practitioners.  These tests are usually marketed with various supplements to control imbalances of these hormones; a serious conflict of interest.  Some well-intentioned patients have purchased and completed such tests thinking that it might provide their healthcare provider with “important information.”

Saliva testing is not a reliable method of assessing levels of any hormone except Cortisol (which must be done under very specific conditions and only for certain conditions). There is no physiologic reason to measure most salivary hormone levels and no generally published ranges of normal levels of hormones measured in saliva. Hormones are typically measured in blood, which makes physiologic sense; some hormones and their metabolites can usefully be measured in urine, but are not currently a part of any protocol for evaluation or diagnosis of any mental health condition.  Moreover, even if the test results are technically accurate, I’m aware of no science that links salivary hormone assays to non-optimal levels of hormones or neurotransmitters. Nor, even if the tests were entirely legitimate, is there any evidence that the proposed treatments will “optimize” neurotransmitter or hormone levels.

If you are concerned that you may have a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety, concerned about reasons for insomnia, or concerned that you may be approaching menopause, please contact your doctor and have that discussion with him or her. Depression, Anxiety, Insomnia, and all other psychiatric conditions are diagnosed through a “Psychiatric Diagnostic Interview” based on standardized guidelines as put forth by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-IV TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual, 4th Edition, Text Revision).  While certain blood tests may be useful in evaluating for medical conditions that may play a part in certain mental health conditions, such as thyroid conditions, saliva test are not.  Your resources would be better spent investing in yourself through health eating and exercise; you already have all the “important information” any clinician might need: your story.