Psychobabble and the expressions we love to hate

PsyBlog has asked readers to nominate the worst examples of psychobabble, to identify verbal crimes against neuroscience, and to nominate where the language of cognitive science is being most used and abused. The best of the worst will be collected and published online, so now’s your chance to name and shame.

There are a few great examples there already and you can either add your contribution to the comments or email Jeremy with your nomination.

My contribution would be the term “hardwired”, which is surely one of the most abused terms in both science journalism and everyday language.

Presumably, it originally meant an innate behaviour or process that is almost entirely genetically determined, or at least, is present from birth without the need for prior experience.

However, it gets used to refer to almost biological finding or reported sex difference.

According to even usually quite reliable sources, we’re “hardwired” for money, risky behaviour, religion, feeling others’ pain, art, fraud, oh, and liking pink, if you’re a girl of course.

Anyway, if you’ve got any misleading jargon that’s been bothering you, do send them on.

Link to PsyBlog’s request for psychobabble.


  1. Posted June 23, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Vaughan, thanks for your nomination – good one!

  2. Matthew Platte
    Posted June 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Ful(ly)-blown. Like we all have little mechanical turbines that pump additional ambient air down our throats.

  3. Posted June 24, 2008 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    I put up Introvert and Extrovert, two terms I think get misapplied and misused way too much.

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