Skepticism

In psychology classes the first thing you learn is not to believe everything you hear. Be skeptical. I began thinking this way when it came to reading an article in a popular magazine, or having a conversation with a fellow student, even family members and friends. They give me a “fact” and I think about it and wonder where this information came from, if it’s true, and I consider doing my own research on the subject depending on my interest.

I understand being skeptical in daily conversation, in unreliable reading material (coughwikipediacough), and the news, but what about with professionals? What about talking to the people you see as the most trusted, like doctors, professors, and other highly educated individuals who specialize in a certain area of study? This is the area I have a hard time being skeptical in.

I took a great biological psychology class one summer and I loved my professor. She was very knowledgeable, funny, and over all a great professor. One fact that stuck with me has to do with how melatonin works. Melatonin is the chemical our bodies produce in the evening that makes us sleepy. Many people use melatonin supplements as sleep aids. What this professor told us is that if you take melatonin as a sleep aid at night, it doesn’t help. Our bodies already produce melatonin at night and adding more doesn’t have an effect. But taking melatonin for someone with jet-lag when their body isn’t producing the melatonin at the right time is very effective.

I recently posted this fact on a forum where someone asked what kinds of sleep aids are effective. I immediately got responses about people’s personal experiences with melatonin supplements being effective at night. I began to wonder, is taking melatonin supplements at night a placebo effect? Or was my professor, who I trusted so much, wrong?

Doing my own research on this subject would probably be exhausting and would come down to me wanting to do my own experiments on people, testing chemical levels, etc… none of which I have the means or knowledge to do.

I generally choose not to blindly trust my sources of information, I just need to learn that even experienced professionals can be wrong and can make mistakes.

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