One need only to turn on the television or flip through a magazine to realize that there are some very strange ideas in the world. From articles which promise the end of the world, to horoscopes that predict every possible facet of your coming life. Of course, with all this disinformation out there, it is possible to find real truth as well, it just takes some looking. However, far more damaging than the simple spread of false information is that much of it is attempted to be passed off as real, scientifically proven fact, and this is usually done under the guise that it is psychology.
Although many may not be aware of it, real psychology is a strict field, requiring between six to eight years of school, board certification in some cases, and a firm hold on the difference between fact and fiction. None of these categories quite match up with the horoscope section of your favorite magazine though.
The truth is that there are a lot of false prophets out there, attempting to offer information and guidance on the grounds that it is proven psychology. While many may be able to tell the difference with only the blink of an eye, others are not so lucky, and the prevalence and persuasiveness of such information has likely led to damage for many out there. We can save ourselves and those around us a lot of time and even sanity if we learn to distinguish the difference between real psychology and what is commonly called pseudo-psychology.
In short, pseudo psychology can be thought of as unsupported information or even superstition, which is passed off as being scientific fact. One of the best examples of pseudo psychology can be found in self-help books. While these books promise many ways that a person can make their lives better, lose weight or any number of things, rarely are they ever supported by any kind of fact or real proven information. Of course, these books are sold in the millions, and people turn to their advice almost everyday, although the actual amount of help that these books do is minimal, and sometimes they can often do more harm than good.
Another example of a pseudo psychology is ESP. Although many people believe that ESP is a real sixth sense, and claim to be able to test it, there are no real objective tests to prove whether or not it actually exists. True psychology is based on fact and a lot of objective testing.
Herein we come to one of the best ways to determine whether or not something is real psychology. We must merely ask ourselves if it can be objectively tested. In other words, are there tests (based on fact) that can allude to the proof of a statement. We must also be careful to avoid circular logic and guesswork as the products of real science. Real science is proven by a series of tests and processes, known as the scientific method. If something can not be judged by the scientific method, and can not be proven conclusively, than we must be very careful before we consider it to be real science, or psychology.
Keep in mind that psychology is generally a fairly limited field, and psychologists generally shy away from promoting any information that has not been proven as fact. This should be one of the primary clues that alerts us to pseudo psychology. Also consider the source of any information that we encounter. While anyone with a computer and access to the internet can promote any kind of information they want, that does not make that information true. True psychological facts and information is generally backed up by a number of highly qualified people with degrees and prominent jobs.
When it really comes down to it, discerning the difference between psychology and pseudo-psychology is generally fairly easy. We must just remember to use common sense and ask ourselves what the source of the information we are taking in is. Regardless of our personal commitment towards an issue, we must always look at it with an objective point of view. When we fail to use reason, we open ourselves and our minds up to an incredibly damaging amount of false science. Learning to tell the difference between what is fact and what is unsupported opinion is a skill necessary to get through life, and if we merely follow a few simple guidelines, we can learn to tell that difference fairly easily, and thus improve the quality of our own lives as well as the lives around us.