By Admin, on 10 December 2021
By William Taylor
BSc Placement Student
What Are Neuromyths?
Neuromyths are defined as:
“A misconception generated by a misunderstanding, misreading, or misquoting of facts scientifically established to make a case for the use of brain research in education and other contexts”
How do they Originate?
There are three ways that have been noted in which Neuromyths can arise:
1.Distortion of Scientific Fact – Neuromyths stem from undue simplification of scientific facts. – Example: Left and Right Brained Individuals – Research on the specialisation of brain hemispheres led to the belief that individuals are differentiated between left and right-brained, and that each group has a specific learning style: with left-brain people being better at language and right–brain people being more creative. Yet, although the two brain hemisphere’s are lateralised, all people have a left and a right brain.
2.Offspring of Hypotheses – In other cases hypotheses may be held true but then later disproved by science, yet the content of the original hypothesis may still be regarded as the truth. For Example: The Mozart Effect – A study was done on the effects of different music types on spatial capacities and showed that listening to Mozart music resulted in an increase of 8-9 IQ points. It was later disproved that listening to Mozart makes people smarter, but the concept of the Mozart-Effect was still shown to be familiar, with ”80% of 496 people in California and Arizona were familiar with the Mozart Effect” (Pasquinelli, 2012)
3.Misinterpretations of Scientific Results – Myths can be based on accurate scientific information that has been interpreted in an erroneous way. – Example: Critical Period Theory – States that learning depends on synaptic growth and the first three years of life are the best period for learning. This myth ”fails to take into account the different maturation rates of the human brain and lifelong learning based on functional plasticity” (Pasquinellie, 2012). For example, the brain is also very receptive to learning and plastic during puberty!
New study at CDLD
A new study by colleagues from CDLD examined the endorsement of neuromyths about the typically developing brain and myths related to neurodevelopmental disorders by adults working in education and those not working in education.
1.It was predicted that all groups would endorse some neuromyths, but neuromyths concerning neurodevelopmental disorders would be more common.
2.It was predicted that mainstream class teachers would hold less incorrect belief than the general public, and that SEND teachers would hold fewer incorrect beliefs than mainstream teachers.
3.It was predicted that those with more familiarity with a disorder would hold fewer incorrect beliefs, and that those with regularly access information about the brain would hold more incorrect beliefs.
569 participants were recruited via online sampling through online research websites as well as popular social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. Some worked in education (35%), others didn’t (65%).
2 Qualtrics Questionnaires were used:
- General Neuromyth Questionnaire: 15 statements to test general knowledge about the brain: 9 correct statements and 6 incorrect statements.
- Neurodevelopmental Neuromyth Questionnaire: Contained 30 statements about Neurodevelopmental Disorders, some were non-specific and could apply to multiple disorders, others were more specific to different disorders such as Autism.
- In addition, the participants filled out a demographic information questionnaire at the end to give participant information
- Answers to the questionnaire were recoded using a scale of 1-4 from least correct, to most correct answer. This produced a total score for the overall belief of neuromyths for each participant; lower scores indicated higher acceptance of neuromyths.
Results from the Qualtrics Survey were analysed to see if any differences existed between the responses to the general neuromyths and to those related to neurodevelopmental disorders. Further analyses were performed to investigate whether there were any differences in the performances of individuals working in education and those within the general public.
- Analyses found that:
ØThere was no significant difference between those working in education and those not working in education for neuromyths.
ØIn both groups, people endorsed more neuromyths related to neurodevelopmental disorders compared to neuromyths related to general brain development.
ØAlthough familiarity with neurodevelopmental disorders was not a factor, neuromyths associated with ASD were identified with greater accuracy than neuromyths related to other developmental disorders.
- The study showed that the participants were able to recognise neuromyths with greater accuracy compared to participants a decade ago.
- The frequency of access to brain research, and scientific resources, was shown to be a protective factor against neuromyths.
- In general the results suggested that greater understanding and knowledge of developmental disorders through awareness campaigns can help combat the endorsements of neuromyths.
Full Text – Gini, S., Knowland, V., Thomas, M. S. C., & Van Herwegen, J. (2021). Neuromyths About Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Misconceptions by Educators and the General Public. Mind, Brain, and Education. https://doi.org/10.1111/mbe.12303