Popular Psychology

Popular 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.

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 exponents of the genre include James Vikery, Anthony Robbins, David Icke, Edward De Bono, L. Ron Hubbard and Tony Buzan who have popularized a variety of unsupported and out of context claims.

One of the most enduring, yet non-factual, statements associated with popular psychology is that humans use only ten percent of their brain. Many people accept this urban legend as true science, and it is often propagated by pseudoscientific and new age practitioners.