Your mental health should be your priority, but you shouldn’t rely just on social media to get all your facts. Just like any other website, TikTok has its fair share of awesome and educational content that’s mixed together with utter garbage and even fake news. Ex-Soviet refugee and psychology expert Dr. Inna Kanevsky is calling out the latter in her own TikTok videos.
The psychology professor, who works at San Diego Mesa College, debunks psychology fake news over on TikTok in a blunt yet witty manner. Her videos have earned her a following of nearly a million people on the video-sharing platform. They’ve also gained popularity elsewhere as well, including on Reddit where a post about her amassed a whopping 130k upvotes in just 2 days.
Check out some of the best excerpts from Dr. Inna’s debunking videos where she roasts other psychology ‘experts’ below, upvote the ones that you thought were the peak of wit, and let us know what you think of the professor’s videos in the comments.
Bored Panda reached out to Dr. Inna and had a friendly chat with her about her viral TikTok videos and her journey into the world of psychology. "Anytime you see 'Psychology says,' 'Psychologists say,' 'Studies show,' and the like, without referencing specific studies or psychologists, it’s most likely to be a false, unsupported claim," she explained to me via email.
"But it is a generally good habit to look up any statement about psychology, and not just psychology, to see what the source of that claim actually is. If it’s a blog, a Reddit thread, a press article that doesn’t cite or link sources, a 'medical' website that’s also not backed by research, or similar, it is unlikely to be valid." Scroll down for the full interview!
Professor: Let's not teach people to be stalkers, please. Thank you. There is no way this a "psychology fact". Think about it. How would we test this?
Professor: No. This is isn't a "psychology fact". This is just some sexist stereotyping.
Dr. Inna told Bored Panda that she originally began making videos last June, aimed at her summer PSYC 101 online students. "By winter, I noticed other qualified psychology accounts, such as @tallpsychology, work to address misinformation, and more of it showed on my FYP. I thought I should help… and as soon as I started doing that, people started tagging me in more and more fake fact videos," she explained the inspiration behind her TikToks.
The professor also went into detail with Bored Panda about her journey towards becoming an educator. "I grew up in Soviet Ukraine. I wanted to be a teacher since 1st grade, but kept changing my mind about the subject based on my then-favorite teachers. In high school, though, I ended up in a 'pedagogical class' for aspiring future teachers—and we had a psychology class. That’s when I decided I would rather be a psychologist, but Soviet universities had unofficial but real quotas for Jewish applicants, and so it wasn’t possible," she said.
Professor: How about three signs that you shouldn't be talking about psychology on TikTok.
1: You are exploiting other people's mental health for your own clout.
2: You do not provide any evidence for any of your claims.
3: You actively block people who ask you to provide evidence for your claims.
How about: please, stop. Thank you.
Professor: Wearing black does not give you depression. There is absolutely no evidence that it does. Don't say "according to latest science" unless there is actually some "latest science". And the science just doesn't support this claim. Not "soft" science, not "hard" science. No science at all
Because of these restrictions, Dr. Inna's life took a slightly different turn than she wanted. However, through a lot of effort, she ended up teaching psychology in the end. "I graduated from a local Pedagogical Institute with a degree in mathematics and informatics (computers, today) instruction, and taught math for a year and half. But then we immigrated, as refugees, and so I took advantage of the possibilities in the US to pursue psychology. I accidentally ended up in an MS program that wasn’t going to make me a school psychologist like I wanted, because I didn’t understand the system. However, that’s when my advisor there persuaded me to go for a doctorate, and it was during that part of my education that I rediscovered my passion for teaching," she told Bored Panda.
"I love teaching at my community college, where I have awesome departmental colleagues who value research and academic depth but truly prioritize our students. Sometimes, I wish I could teach a larger variety of classes, but I make up for it by incorporating what interests me in what I do teach. Psychology is a new science, not even 150 years old, officially—watching it grow and getting my students (and my TikTok audience) interested in it is very exciting for me."
Professor: Hips? Hips? Is this supposed to be short for "hippocampus"? Because it can't be short for "amygdala," right?
TikToker: Why women's body count actually matters to guys with the psycological studies proving that it does matter anyway
Professor: Next time you decide to justify your misogyny, please leave psychological studies out of this. There are no psychological studies that prove this BS.
Dr. Inna added that she's currently banned from posting on TikTok because of a misunderstanding on their part. She was banned for multiple 'violations' because she answered a question about tattoos in academia and had photos of her colleagues' arms and legs in one of her videos.
"My removed comments had academic source links—that is NOT against published guidelines at all. My muted videos were addressing blatant misinformation about my academic subject, respectfully and with sources. Please have an actual human who understands the nature of my work look at this," she wrote to TikTok.
Professor: I got so excited when I saw this, because I thought the follow up was going to be "I have since learned that serotonin that's produced in the gut is used right there in the gut to regulate intestinal movement". Because it does not cross the blood-brain-barrier and it serves multiple functions in our body. But I guess not...
TikToker: Psychology says that when someone is laughing and they look at you, they're attracted to you.
Professor: Psychology says no such thing. And don't even get me started on the one where "If you dream of someone, that means they're in love with you". How is that supposed to work?
Meanwhile, Dr. Inna’s videos reminded me of a chat about double-checking sources that I had earlier with Lee McIntyre from Boston University.
He told me that we should focus on finding accurate and reliable sources of information, instead of double-checking every teeny-tiny tidbit of info we come across. We wouldn’t be able to keep up this sort of in-depth fact-checking because we’d end up exhausted very quickly. So it’s far easier to find who we can trust.
Professor: Did you know what the Barnum effect is? A lot of these supposed personality tests you see online, as well as a bunch of other things that "tell you your personality," or pretend to work because of the Barnum effect.
Barnum Effect, also called Forer Effect, in psychology, the phenomenon that occurs when individuals believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them (more so than to other people), despite the fact that the description is actually filled with information that applies to everyone.
TikToker: Psychology says that if you're over 16, you've probably already met your soulmate.
Professor: Psychology says no such things. Psychology doesn't talk. But psychologists don't say them either.
“It would be exhausting to fact check every single news item we hear. In fact, insisting on this degree of skepticism is something that demagogues use to get us to be cynical, because when we doubt that it is possible to know the truth—even when it is staring us in the face—we are riper to their manipulation. So I’d say the best thing with news is to do a little investigation into finding a reliable source,” he said.
“Look for an organization that does investigative journalism (and doesn't just repeat information from other sources), double sources its quotations, discloses conflicts of interest, etc. Once we've found that we can relax a bit and trust the reporting behind the stories. Do we still need to be on guard? Yes. Even The New York Times can make mistakes. Or individual reporters can have biases. But that doesn't mean 'all sources are equal.'"
Professor: Max, we talked about this, didn't we? You shouldn't say "according to science" when it isn't. And you shouldn't say "studies show" when there are no studies.
TikToker: If you saw the flowers first, that means you're meticulous, modest, and shy.
Professor: No. It does not mean anything at all like that. This is just a figure-ground illusion. There are many around like that. None of them are personality tests. Perceptual phenomena ARE NOT personality test
TikToker: Quick way to identify someone more narcissistic or psychopathic is to look ...
Professor: One quick way to know which psychology 'professionals' on TikTok to stay away from is when they teach you a very quick way to identify whether someone is narcissistic or psychopathic. Do you really need views this badly, doctor? This is really not something you should be teaching people.
TikToker: You can change the way you look and heal yourself from disease with your thoughts and it's been scientifically proven.
Professor: No. It is not "scientifically proven," for two reasons. One is that science does not "prove" things. In science, we support theories with evidence that we obtain from testing our hypotheses and we do not actually "prove" things because the next study may show that your theory was, in fact, incorrect, and needs changing. So, no, scientists do not say "scientifically proven". And epigenetics does not work the way you think. What you're describing is magic, not epigenetics. Epigenetics[processes] can change your genes depending on the environment but it's not going to have effects that you claim and it has not been shown, in any studies to have the kind of effect that you claim. And placebo effect? it's not quite relevant to what you're describing. You really don't understand science, huh?