The more I think I’m in complete, logical control of all my decisions, the more I realize that I’m fooling myself, flopping around in the shallows between reality and make believe. Whose side is your brain on? Well, that depends on if you’re asking the thinking “you” or the reacting “you”.
Our consciousness is often an appeasement machine for the motives our subconscious feeds to it.
Having researched far too much on behavioral psychology in the past few years I thought I’d share with you some of the more mind-boggling tendencies that the great rationalizer in our head has us doing or not doing.
The Halo Effect
The Skinny – You believe what you see or hear first.
The Good – If we had to inspect and research every person or everything we read in detail, we’d still be in the Stone Age.
The Not So Good –
What do you think of Alan and Ben?
If you are like most of us, you viewed Alan much more favorably than Ben. The initial traits in the list change the very meaning of the traits that appear later. The stubbornness of an intelligent person is seen as likely to be justified and may actually evoke respect, but intelligence in an envious and stubborn person makes him more dangerous. Sequence matters, however, because the halo effect increases the weight of first impressions, sometimes to the point that subsequent information is mostly wasted. -Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow
Also, multiple studies of the Halo Effect in jury outcomes have shown attractive individuals both receive lesser sentences and are less likely to be convicted than unattractive ones. Yikes. Damn you, high cheek bones!
The Takeaway – As the adage goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. What people see or experience first (a smile, a hand shake, clear copy on your website) will be the thing that shapes their thinking of you for far longer than it should.
On the flip side, if you are being judgmental towards someone or are writing them off, ask yourself why you are doing so. Hopefully it won’t be because they had a booger hanging out his his nose the first time you met.
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The Ideomotor Effect
The Skinny – Gestures we make can affect what we believe.
The Good – We can make ourselves happier by changing our physical demeanor.
College students were asked to rate the humor of cartoons from Gary Larson’s The Far Side. Some of the students had to hold a pencil in their mouth sideways, forcing them to smile a bit. The other students put the tip of the pencil in their mouths forcing them to “frown”. Those who were “smiling” (without any awareness of doing so) found the cartoons funnier than did those who were “frowning.”
The Not So Good – We are sheep if we are not careful.
In one demonstration, people were asked to listen to messages through new headphones. They were told that the purpose of the experiment was to test the quality of the audio equipment and were instructed to move their heads repeatedly to check for any distortions of sound. Half the participants were told to nod their head up and down while others were told to shake it side to side. The messages they heard were radio editorials.
Those who nodded (a yes gesture) tended to accept the message they heard, but those who shook their head tended to reject it. Again, there was no awareness, just a habitual connection between an attitude of rejection or acceptance and its common physical expression. – Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow
The Takeaway – Other than jumping off a bridge because now you’re sure you’re real body is just sitting in a pod somewhere being controlled by machines like in The Matrix? I don’t know. But seriously, it helps to know that we can trick ourselves to be in a good mood instead of waiting for something to happen. Mindsets are everything. When you wake up in the morning, you can choose to be in a good mood or not. If worse comes to worst, stick a pencil in your mouth sideways for 60 seconds and start humming your favorite song. Yes, it can be that easy.
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The Zeigarnik Effect
The Skinny – We hate not finishing what we start.
The Good – This pushes us forward in life.
The Not So Good – It stresses us out when even simple things are not completed in our lives. So If we have 17 things on our to-do list and only complete 5 of them, we end up being more stressed about the unfinished 12 than we feel good about the completed 5.
The Takeaway – You might be thinking, “Well if we love to finish things, doctor (please please. I’m not a doctor. I only play one in this blog post), why can’t I finish them?” That’s because things like the fear of failure, fear of success, the fear of change and such, sit on the other end of the stress see-saw. I know, it’s a cruel, cruel world. So when trying to start something you truly care about, shrink your list into tangible chunks and just…start…anywhere. There is no right starting point, there is just starting. How not to kill yourself after you start? “Finish” smaller chunks so as not to be so overwhelmed at the greater task at hand.
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What do you think? Do you feel any of these in action in your life?