Kitty Genovese and Phinneas Gage are kind of the origination stories of Psychology. Along with Milgram, they turn up in the textbooks as the real events inspiring the science. But, as this blog points out, the stories are incorrect. As the Suzi Gage says, they are printing the legend. This is bothersome actually. We are supposed to do science, and although there are times where you have to simplify (think models), we are not supposed to distort.
Is this a case of Telling-Lies-to-Children?. I really don’t think so. I don’t think this really is justified as a simplification in order to ease learning (we do the mess later).
I’m bothered about it, the way I’m bothered about autobiographies who turn out to be…well not lived in real life but entirely in the head! (Now, I would expect distortion – being a psychologist ‘n all, but don’t make things up!).
Perhaps this is part of what happens with textbooks – kind of copying each other, so the copy errors – like mutations – keep propagating if they are memorable enough. I remember reading that Richard Feynman had issues with this (in his autobiographies – hmmmmmm, should I trust them?) And, I do see this. Most intro textbooks are just about the same.
I did take one to task once (when I had the opportunity) for using the “in medieval times they believed the world was flat” meme to illustrate something in psychology. The phenomenon in psychology was correct, the myth was not. Spreading misconceptions like that has no place in a textbook.