Authors: Macdonald, K., Germine, L., Anderson, A., Christodoulou, J. and McGrath, L.

[Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 8, 10 August 2017]

A “neuromyth” is described as a common misconception about brain function and research and are often related to learning and education. A study published in August 2017 by Macdonald, Germine, Anderson, Christodoulou, and McGrath looked into the belief of neuromyths among different levels of educational background, hoping to discover ways to better children’s education. Their research unveiled that while those with more training in neuroscience believed fewer myths, there still existed numerous myths that were not detected by even the most trained group.

For this study, a survey was given online to 3,877 people, all from varying backgrounds. Participants were categorized into 3 distinct groups- the general public, educators, and those with high exposure to neuroscience. The survey gave statements to which the participant had to decide if they thought it was true or false. The researchers were then able to use these data to interpret the differences amongst the 3 groups of people.

The main results from this study were that those with education in neuroscience believed in less neuromyths than educators and the general public, who had less experience in the field. However, all groups still believed in half or more of the neuromyths presented to them, with the most commonly endorsed myths across all groups being those that related to learning styles and dyslexia. For example, the idea that some people are “right-brained” and others are “left-brained” to explain ways of learning is actually a myth. Most concerning for dyslexics is the misconception that dyslexia is characterized by seeing letters backward. All these neuromyths have potential consequences when educators and parents are unaware of their invalidity.

The implications of these new findings are very relevant to the way we teach in the classroom. Due to the fact that individuals who believe one neuromyth are likely to believe another, curriculum should be developed on a multifactorial level to address these myths and explain factors that influence learning and cognition. If nothing is done, belief in these false ideas of how the brain functions can be dangerous. When teachers and schools put their money, time, and resources into techniques that are based on things that just are not true, they are only hurting themselves and their students. For example, if a teacher believes in the neuromyth that dyslexia is caused by letter reversals, students who have dyslexia but do not reverse their letters will not be diagnosed and/or instruction will focus on the shape of letters rather than on the sounds of words and the letter(s) that we use to represent that sound. Obviously, this will lead to greater problems when students do not receive the help they need. As neuromyths are more widely understood by researchers, educating the public about what is true and not true in regard to cognition and learning is crucial.

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