The mind is a curious thing (as if you didn’t know that already!).
It doesn’t always behave as we would think and often we do things that seemingly defy logic, all because of the way our brains process things
Here are some of the most interesting psychological phenomena we ALL do and how you can use them for your advantage.
Ever noticed how when you’re given a compliment and a criticism, it’s often the criticism that stays in your mind? This is due to negativity bias; whereby negative events, thoughts or emotions are more likely to effect our psychological state than neutral or positive ones. It causes us to more easily forget about positive things and instead dwell on the negative. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D states that ‘our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences, and like Teflon for positive ones.’
In the past this may have helped to keep us safe from all the dangers that were around as we were evolving, but now, it tends to hold us back and make us less happy.
To counteract this, try to make the positive stuff stick. Make a note of compliments, things that went well, bits of luck and positive feedback that you’ve received and refer back to it to often so that it stays front my mind.
This is often known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Ever found that when you hear of a new TV programme for the first time, for example, you then start to see references to it everywhere?
This is due to two things going on. Firstly, the psychological phenom known as ‘selective attention’; when you have a new idea and then you ‘unconsciously’ look for it and notice it everywhere.
Secondly, ‘confirmation bias’ is happening here, where if you hold a belief, you unconsciously search for evidence to support that belief. This causes you to unconsciously seek out the new TV show and to reinforce the belief that references to it really are everywhere!
How can you use this to your benefit? Start to consciously think positive thoughts and make lists of things you’re grateful for. This helps to hack your brain so that you unconsciously seek out positive things and stuff to be grateful about.
You can’t actually multitask
We think we’re being reeeeeally clever when we try to do several things at once, but in fact, multitasking is a myth.
Our brains are in fact switching quickly from one task to another.
A recent study found that people talking on their mobile phones were less likely to notice a clown on a unicycle go past them and more likely to bump into people.
So if you really want to do something well, just do one thing at a time and give all of your attention to it.
Say you’re thought of as likeable, a good person and competent by another person (and I’m sure you are). Studies have shown that if you do something wrong (mess up a presentation, fall on your face or openly admit to failures) then you’re likely to be seen as MORE likeable and an EVEN better person, compared with someone who doesn’t commit a blunder.
So don’t worry about making mistakes in front of others, it could very likely improve their opinion of you.
The Pygmalion effect
A study in the late 1960’s looked in to how ‘belief’ in a person’s abilities can impact the results that they get. Researchers told a group of teachers in a school that a certain number of children we ‘gifted’ (these children were, in reality, chosen at random). They found that the fact that the teachers believed in the abilities of these children, meant that they unconsciously changed their behaviour to support and encourage them in subtle ways. This resulted in significant improvements in the school results of the children in the ‘gifted’ group.
What does this mean for you? It supports the idea that by believing in ourselves and other people, we can support ourselves and others to get better results.
Another reason not to be so hard on yourself, to support and encourage yourself, and to aim high, for the things that you really want.
We often think we’re taking in the world like a tape recorder recording whats really there.
At any moment we’re exposed for over 40 million bits of information. It would be information overload for our poor little brains to handle all that data, since our conscious minds only take in 40 bits of information per second. That’s a whole lotta information that we’re missing out on.
To try to make sense of things in the best way we can, we ‘delete’ things which aren’t relevant, important or what we’re not directly focused on.
We’re often filtering information according to what we already believe about the world.
In the ‘Invisible Gorilla’ experiment, participants were asked to focus on a video of people passing a basketball. When a man in a gorilla suit walked in and out of the scene on the screen, half of the participants watching the video failed to notice the gorilla at all.
Which of these have you noticed in yourself, and how? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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