50 inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused psychological terms

Originally published at: 50 inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused psychological terms | Boing Boing


If you ever read me or any other writer use one of these fifty terms, it’s fair to suspect we’re lazy, confused, or up to no good.

Unless you’re insisting that you’re using the a more colloquial term (e.g. fetish, denial, acting out, brainwashing, etc.) in the name of Science™, I’ll give you and anyone else using it a break. This in contrast to my reaction to a certain BB guest author who writes long, Gish-galloping articles insisting that #49 is a real thing.


Saved this one so fast that I think my keyboard’s still smoking.
Will have to review my next paper against it. :sweat_smile:


We psychologists do love our fiddly definitions. I suspect I have operationally defined, in a court setting, the word “masturbation” more often than any other person in the history of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I haven’t been able to fit that professional distinction on a coffee mug yet.


Huh. Apparently I missed his most recent post. Oh well.


Amen. Words are tools. The ‘god gene’ can go, but many of these are good words. Use them properly. Keep them sharp and well-oiled. Do not use a chisel as a screwdriver. That blunts them and they are good for nothing.

‘Comorbid’ is a favourite of mine: two conditions are comorbid if they are often found together. The assumption is often ‘but we don’t know exactly why’ but that is not part of the word.


Honestly, getting your morning coffee from the shop in your “Pennsylvania’s Masturbation Expert” mug is probably a little awkward.


Too true. I’ll settle for a mug shaped like Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s head.



I’m a bit surprised that the sinister ‘reductionists’ haven’t developed a library of snide responses(especially the ones who might actually be excessively reductive, who enjoy the advantage of being able to tar with a broad brush).

A “No, I understand where you are coming from; I really enjoyed my freshman creative writing course…” or “It can be scary to develop a model; but passing a few math classes really takes the edge off.” or “But how does my reductivism make you feel?”


That might help with numbers 19, 22, 25, and 44. Well, stats classes anyway.


This is a great read. Dense, but arguably a must. It covered much more than psychological terms. There’s a broad spectrum of science-related language that is misused, as well as general ideas that we take for granted that are wrong.

A big one that jumped out at me was the idea of a “chemical imbalance” in the brain being the cause of depression. I’ve heard and believed this my entire life. It’s just one of those things everyone “knows”. Turns out that’s bullshit– propaganda from drug companies. This was a hypothesis of theirs, but it has not held up to science. Drugs like SSRIs do work, but not for the reasons people generally say and think they do.


All of a sudden “Chemical Imbalance” is sounding a lot like “balancing the humors…”

I wonder if their slack threads are full of pointed Reductress embeds…


While there’s good reasoning and points made, it does start to read like Old Man Yelling on Lawn after awhile.

“You kids these days and your freewheeling use of the English language! Why, back in my day we spoke English in the original Latin as God intended!”

I think that maybe before slapping someone for their alleged misusage, #24 should be applied to the decision making process there.

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Note that it’s not the putative reality of “telepathy” being objected to in #49, but the pleonastic term “mental telepathy”, because if it’s not mental it’s not telepathy.

(“mental telepathy” is also a Ghostbusters quote. So by the early 1980s it was already a shibboleth for paraspychological pretensions)


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