Sunday, August 18, 2013

Adapted from Scientific American, August 2013

An EXPECTATION is a future-based belief that may or may not be realistic.

Question is, do expectations factor into our outcomes? Are our results determined by our expectations?

This is something that a German psychologist, named Ulrich Weger, and an Australian psychologist, named Stephen Loughnan, wondered about, so they did an experiment with two groups of people that were asked a series of questions on a video screen.

One group was told they would be given subliminal flashes of the answers that their unconscious minds would understand right before they were asked the question. The other group was told the flashes were just an indicator that the next question was about to appear.

Nothing meaningful was in the flash for either group, nothing at all. And yet, those that expected that they were being exposed to the answers did much better on the test. Apparently expecting to know the answers made people more likely to get the answers right.

Here’s some more on this topic. 

Most of us think that our bodies respond to physical exercise in a mechanical way. This is true. So we count our calorie intake, the calories we lose on a treadmill, etc. However, merely changing our thoughts about our physical activity seems capable of changing our bodies as this next experiment demonstrates.

The background: Hotel room attendants clean on average 15 rooms per day, each room taking between 20 and 30 minutes to complete. (The physical activity involved meets the Surgeon General’s recommendation of at least 30 minutes of physical exercise per day for a healthy lifestyle.) However, most hotel room attendants believe that they do NOT get regular exercise; and a lot of them believe that they do not get any exercise at all.

The experiment: Alia Crum and Ellen Langer, of the psychology department at Harvard University, told a group of hotel room attendants that their work INDEED provided the recommended exercise for a healthy lifestyle. The treatment group was monitored for 4 weeks.

A control group of hotel room attendants, who were NOT told that their work provided the recommended exercise, was similarly monitored.

People in the treatment group lost weight; their body fat percentages, waist-to-hip ratios, and systolic blood pressures dropped. Amazing, how did that happen? People in the control group showed no such improvement. These changes occurred despite the fact that the hotel room attendants’ amount of work, amount of exercise outside of work, and diets stayed the same for both the treatment and the control group.

This all goes to show that WE OFTEN GET WHAT WE EXPECT. So why not expect the best. If mindsets can change us, maybe we can deliberately choose our mindsets to improve our abilities. Yes! Perhaps we ought to choose to adopt a mindset that improves creativity, or productivity or happiness. Yes, yes, yes!

Of course, expectations can be applied to many things and it’s amazing how many barriers we can break through just because we expect to do so!

Expect the best and make it so.

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