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Popular psychology, frequently called pop psychology, refers to concepts and theories about human mental life and behaviour that come from outside the technical study of psychology, but purport to go beyond everyday knowledge. Like any cultural fad, pop psychology movements (the driving force behind these theories) tend to be short-lived; that is, their relevance is variable. Over time their popularity fades, or one popular theory is replaced with a new one.

Popular psychology should be distinguished from naïve psychology, the technical term for the intuitive, non-technical understanding of our own and others' psychological processes that all people have. Like the parallel areas of naïve physics and naïve biology, naïve psychology may often be technically incorrect but is often functional, in the sense that it gives an accurate description of the situations that we face as individuals, and specifies reasonable courses of action to take.

Popular psychology, on the other hand, usually purports to offer a technical insight, and often uses technical jargon, but does so in a way that is unsupported by systematic analysis or knowledge. Many popular psychology concepts are taken from pseudoscience but may also refer to academic or clinical psychology, but the literature tends to seize on ideas out of context or without the conditions and cautions that a professional psychologist would attach to them.

Popular psychology should also be distinguished from various schools of psychological thinking that lie outside the current mainstream, for example the approaches to understanding psychology that flow from most religious systems or from astrology. Professional psychologists are as mistrustful of these as they are of popular psychology, quackery and pseudoscience, but these systems do generally represent, at least, some relatively systematic attempt to understand human thought, emotions, behavior, and the psyche.

Some who have been characterized as exponents of pop psychology include Melody Beattie, John Bradshaw, Tony Buzan, Edward De Bono, Wayne Dyer, David Icke, Anthony Robbins and James Vikery, who have been characterized as promoting a variety of unsupported and out of context claims.

One of the most enduring, yet not entirely factual, statements associated with popular psychology is that humans use only ten percent of their brains. Many people accept this urban legend as true science, and it is often propagated by pseudoscientific and new age practitioners. [1]

Many writers and musical artists, such as Rush, have used this concept in their work ( Cygnus X-1 Part II: Hemispheres).

Popular psychology concept namesEdit

Popular psychology often uses the nontechnical folk terms for psychological and philosophical concepts. Such terms include:


See alsoEdit

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