Why do people believe so strongly in neuromyths?

This blog recently appeared in my in tray: The “Learning Styles” Myth Is Still Prevalent Among Educators — And It Shows No Sign of Going Away.

The author wonders why one of great neuromyths, that people learn better when taught in a way that matches their specific “learning style” — visual, auditory, kinesthetic, (VAK) or some combination of the three — is still believed by 88% of trained educators and 95% of trainee educators.  This is despite overwhelming evidence that the “learning styles” hypothesis is a myth.

The VAK hypothesis is the cornerstone belief of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which is another widely believed neuromyth.  NLP believers claim it is grounded in scientific findings in either psychology or neuroscience. In fact the system – which is usually marketed a way of achieving greater personal success – was developed by two self-help gurus in the 1970s who simply made up their own psychological principles after watching psychotherapists working with their clients. NLP is full of false claims that are psychobabble, such as that we each have a preferred “representational system” (VAK) for thinking about the world, and that the best way to influence someone is to mirror their preferred system.

However, having participated in some NLP training courses and webinars, and training events in DISC and Myers-Briggs where the trainers and speakers were all fervent apostles their technology I understand the emotional commitment.  Mind you I am the same about the Humm/7MTF profiling system. And my experience is that people are very committed to the first personality profiling system they learn and are subsequently hard to shift.

The reason I think is that when people first learn a profiling system it is a moment of epiphany.  Before then they have a belief that deep down, underneath we are all the same.  When you first learn a profiling system you realise this belief is wrong and that deep down we are different.  You don’t just believe you new knowledge with you head, you believe it with your heart.

There two more reasons why I like the 7MTF.  Firstly it does have scientific validity.  The five most common factors in the 7MTF correspond to the Five-Factor model — generally now regarded as the gold standard in personality theory.

Secondly it incorporates seven variables which makes it easy to learn and practical to use.  Many people do not realise that 7 is the magic number because it is the limit of short-term memory.  Here is a wonderful example of this principle being put to use: UK Postcodes.

Neuromyths are very prevalent in the teaching and practice of emotional intelligence.  Three of my favourites are:

The left-brain right-brain myth (endorsed by 64 per cent of the public, 49 per cent of teachers and 32 per cent of the neuroscience group)

We only use 10 per cent of our brain myth (endorsed by 36 per cent of the public, 33 per cent of teachers, and 14 per cent of those with neuroscience education).

The Importance of Body Language in Communication: The 7% – 38% – 55% Rule.

This blog was first posted on LinkedIn on 19 February 2021.




Charles Lowe

19 Feb,2021
You and I, I suspect, Chris, will differ perennially in our respect for the 'left-right brain' dichotomy. In my practice of psycho-social therapy, I find this distinction conceptually useful, to the point of foundational epistemological significance. To me, it is anything but a 'myth' - though I readily admit that it may have no 'clinical proof' of being an independent, identifiable, conceptual 'entity'. 'Left' and "right' brain phenomena are able to be differentiated. 'Left' brain phenomena are oriented to optimising the smoothness of social communication between human individuals; 'right' brain phenomena display that which is innately part of us: creativity, inventiveness, flow, dreaming, imagining, "instinct" - what I believe Freud would have assigned to the 'id' - the subconscious. The clarity of distinction between these two types of mental phenomena - plus its utility - locks me into asserting their foundational epistemological significance. I have to assert that right-brain phenomena are so much more important for our states of being than the far more superficial left-brain. This assertion completely contradicts that which our 'society/culture' would have us believe: that the possession of multiple doctorates connotes/implies a desirably greater intelligence able to be applied to, for example, conventional management projects or instigating trail-blazing new alternative initiatives. "Un-common sense' lies with right brain competence. I'd prefer "uncommon sense" any day over intellectual/rational 'justification'.

Add Your Comment

Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web www.ceo.com.au.