Greg Laden has an absolutely fantastic post up on "The Falsehoods" in which he observes:
Biology is harder to learn than quantum physics. Why? Because most people think they totally get biology, but everyone knows nobody gets quantum physics. Therefore, any effort to explore quantum physics will result in new learning, but people rarely learn new biology. The bottom line is that our brains are full of biology, which would be good if most of it did not consist of falsehoods.
This is great stuff.
One more perfect line:
The things that people know already often need to be removed from the brain prior to teaching new stuff.
The post is full of examples, mostly about evolutionary biology and assorted Laden favored topics. I say bravo. Why?
Because my end of biology is about eleventy times more subject to firmly false knowledge than any other. The list of topics that people "know" the answers to about psychology are unending. I tend to limit my conversations around here to substance use and my regular readers will be familiar with at least one part of what I am talking about from that context. Our introspection, especially based as it is on a biased viewpoint of a limited number of anecdotes in highly selected populations, can be mistaken.
I trained at at least one stage in a more generalized psych department. These tend, as a class, to be fond* of the word "counterintuitive". You hear this a lot as an undergraduate student taking your courses across the subdisciplines of psychology but the concept really dominates in cognitive and social psychology. It comes up in this generalized situation.
You speculate about how people would behave under certain conditions. People will have a tendency, unprompted and un-suspicioned-by-being-a-psych-major, to predict a particular behavior. Then, when you actually perform studies in random samples, appropriately blinded to condition, etc you find out that, huh, people do something else entirely.
The Milgram experiments are one such example, the bystander effect another. There are studies of eyewitness identification, false memory and circumstantially modified perception of events. Studies of pre-conscious visual processing and attentional allocation. Studies of people being subject to both operant and classical conditioning in various scenarios. Heck, even the concept of the visual saccade and trichromatic vision are probably still counter-intuitive to some people.
The response to someone being informed that the data support something other than the most intuitive conclusion is frequently "Oh yeah, I knew it all along". (One of the Sb bloggers, Rebecca Skloot, seems inordinately fond of this sort of dismissive Twitt** of research studies for example.) Of course, they didn't. When the Psych101 instructor surveys the freshman class before actually presenting the study, you can be assured the result is indeed counterintuitive. If you read a few of these studies in your Psych class, you can later go on to amuse yourself with strangers and random acquaintances further verifying the counterintuitiveness of a given study.
Go read Greg's post if you didn't yet.
*overfond some might say. Nay, obsessed.
**Sometimes studies are indeed obvious or the results intuitive. I would caution that it takes an appreciation of the body of studies in which the obvious was not the conclusion, and indeed had dramatic socio-political implications (such as Milgram and the bystander effect), to confidently dismiss a study with intuitive results as obvious or useless.