How does the layman define psychology

Everyday psychology

Most people's everyday life is silent heroism in installments.
Anna Magnani

In contrast to psychology, as an exact science, everyday psychology is understood to be the entirety of colloquial terms, generally widespread ideas and common modes of explanation that are traditionally and habitually used to describe actions, behavior and other reactions from oneself and others in connection with internal processes of the mind and spirit to represent emotionally in language, to understand in your own imagination as well as to explain or predict.

Dealing with ideas about everyday psychology makes sense, because taking into account everyday psychology that determines action leads to a better prediction of individual behavior and dealing with everyday theories can lead to the correction or modification of scientific theories.

Everyday psychology gradually began to emerge in our cultural area around three thousand years ago, according to linguistic historical observations. In everyday psychology it is assumed that all humans and partly also animals have an "inside" with fairly similar, if not identical, "internal processes" or "impulses", which is called "inner life" or "soul life" in colloquial language becomes. This includes numerous practical ideas and beliefs about which internal processes play a role in people's actions and reactions. The different and sometimes contradicting nature of their prerequisites are rarely reflected, so that they are often the cause of misunderstandings and incomprehension.

Typical characteristics of everyday psychological thinking are, among other things, the inadequate testing of assumptions, i.e. if you provide an explanation in everyday life, e.g. for a psychological phenomenon, then you do not systematically check this explanation, which can be called a hypothesis in the scientific sense. Sometimes one relies on previous subjective experiences or one appeals to authorities. If an attempt is still made in everyday life to check a psychological suspicion, the rule is only looking for confirmatory evidence and not for evidence to the contrary. This tendency to create a social and psychological reality on the basis of mere conjecture is found in scientific psychology as Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect again.

Laypeople vs psychologists

In connection with psychological topics, laypeople often note that many findings actually seem trivial to them and that their assessment is just as reliable as the findings of professional psychologists. Although a certain triviality of psychological knowledge can sometimes be ascertained and even with naive psychology good prognoses can be made in everyday life, the effectiveness is relatively limited in comparison to scientific psychology. The services between psychologists and laypeople come closest to everyday psychology in terms of intuitive knowledge, but as soon as it comes to knowledge that is counterintuitive to everyday knowledge or prognoses must be made on the basis of a multitude of plausible and well-founded alternatives, then psychologists are laypeople clearly superior. Monigl & Neuf (2014) have proven this in an empirical study, and offer two explanations for this: During their studies, psychologists evidently acquire the skill to recognize the essential and related items from a large amount of information, i.e. In other words, their knowledge is more stable and differentiated, and are also better informed than laypeople about the prerequisites for special behavioral reactions. Perhaps the advantage of psychologists is with theirs as well explicit knowledge justifiable, because while laypeople tend to be unsettled or overwhelmed when dealing with conditional statements because of the amount of information, psychologists can still effectively draw their conclusions from a larger amount of information.

See also the basic errorthat hobby psychologists often subvert: Hobby psychology.

The less you know about something, the more convinced you are

Research on the Extremism psychology show that extreme attitudes often develop people who believe they understand complex issues better than they actually do. Studies on the social relevance of genetically modified food show that over ninety percent of the study participants state that they have at least a slight aversion to it, but the stronger this aversion, the more knowledge they attribute to themselves about the topic and the less knowledge they have they actually. Almost identical results were found with regard to gene therapy, because here too the relationship between aversion, supposed and actual knowledge is similar.


Fernbach, P. M., Light, N., Scott, S. E., Inbar, Y. & Rozin, P. (2019). Extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least but think they know the most. Nature Human Behavior, doi: 10.1038 / s41562-018-0520-3.
Monigl, E. & Neuf, H. (2014). On the seeming triviality of psychological knowledge. Journal for Psychology of Everyday Action, 6, No. 2. (10-11-21)

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