Judgments of widely held beliefs about psychological phenomena among South African postgraduate Psychology students

  • A Kagee
  • M Harper
  • G Spies


Lay understandings of human cognition, affect, and behaviour often diverge from the findings of scientific investigations. The present study examined South African fourth year psychology students' judgments about the factual correctness of statements of psychological phenomena that have been demonstrated to be incorrect by empirical research. Students enrolled in the psychology Honours programmes at two large residential universities in the Western Cape and Gauteng were asked to respond to a questionnaire that required them to decide on the validity of a list of empirically untrue statements. The results show that a large proportion of students at both universities believed many incorrect statements to be true. Significant differences between the samples emerged that may have been due to curricular differences between the two academic programmes. These results are discussed with reference to the teaching of critical thinking skills in psychology courses and the influence of popular culture on beliefs about human behaviour. Recommendations are also made about the teaching of scientific and critical reasoning skills in academic psychology programmes.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 22 (4) 2008: pp. 789-798

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eISSN: 1011-3487