Pop psychology

Popular psychology can be described as trying to make psychological ideas accessible, palatable, and usable to the general public.

Pop psychology consists of three main genres.

  1. Recent developments in scientific psychology. These works focus on mind, brain and behaviour.
  2. Practical help with everyday challenges. It includes publications that aim to make us better leaders, lovers, parents, smarter, thinner, fitter, etc.
  3. Help in overcoming mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety or other conditions. The genre seeks to reduce suffering and dysfunction.

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The rise of pop-psychology: can it make your life better, or is it all snake-oil?

theconversation.com

The vast majority of the self-help industry deals with the two genres of pop psychology: practical help with everyday challenges and overcoming mental health problems.

But not all popular psychology is self-help, and not all self-help literature is based on psychology. Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People, was a salesman, actor and public speaking coach. Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was a religious educator, and M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled, was a psychiatrist.

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It is easy to criticise pop psychology as they often offer simplistic claims, easy answers to complex problems and endless positivity.

Pop psychology often wanders away from any scientific evidence. Even when it is built on research, the foundation may be flimsy. Some research findings that support pop psychology cannot be replicated when studies are redone. Other claims are true to some extent but exaggerated in importance.

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The self-help consumer may devour pop psychology in an attempt to find happiness and success. There is some evidence that the search may be successful and make a positive difference.

Research on bibliotherapy - using books to treat mental health problems - revealed that it could effectively reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and sexual dysfunctions. Even self-administered bibliotherapy may be at least equally effective as the standard care for people with depression.

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