Self Help

The As If Principle - Richard Wiseman

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Matheus Puppe

· 42 min read

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  • The chapter introduces William James, a pioneering American psychologist who rejected the trivial experimental approach of his German contemporary Wilhelm Wundt.

  • Wundt spent years conducting meaningless experiments dropping brass balls and measuring reaction times, seeking the fundamental building blocks of consciousness.

  • In contrast, James focused on more practical and interesting questions directly relevant to people’s lives, like whether it’s right to believe in God and what makes life worth living.

  • The chapter sets up James’s radical theory that behavior precedes mindset. It previews how this theory upends conventional thinking about change and provides an easy, effective approach for improving different areas of life through action rather than positive thinking alone.

  • Interactive exercises in the book are meant to have the reader directly experience James’s theory by changing behaviors, rather than just reading about ideas. This behavior-first approach is key to the book’s message.

  • William James and Wilhelm Wundt were two pioneering founders of modern psychology in the late 19th century. However, they had very different approaches to the field.

  • Wundt established the first psychology lab and recruited many students to conduct controlled experiments. He had a rigid approach and would dictate the exact studies students had to do without room for creativity.

  • James encouraged free thinking and independent work. He disliked controlling his students’ research.

  • The two men openly disliked each other. Wundt criticized James’ more literary writing style, while James mocked Wundt for changing his theories.

  • Despite Wundt having more supporters early on, James’ approach proved more influential long-term. His textbook is still widely cited today, while Wundt is barely mentioned.

  • One of James’ most famous theories was that emotions do not cause behaviors, but rather we infer our emotions from our behaviors. For example, we don’t run from a bear because we’re afraid, but rather become afraid because we run. This challenged the common view of the time.

  • James developed this theory by building on Charles Darwin’s early experiments identifying emotions from facial expressions. He proposed we decide our own emotions by observing our own behaviors in a similar way.

So in summary, the passage contrasts the founders James and Wundt, their differing approaches, and highlights James’ influential theory flipping the relationship between emotions and behaviors.

  • William James proposed the idea that behavior causes emotion, not the other way around. Specifically, that acting as if you have an emotion (e.g. smiling) can make you feel that emotion.

  • In the late 1960s, James Laird tested James’ idea by asking volunteers to smile or frown using electrodes on their face (the electrodes were fake). Those who smiled rated themselves as feeling significantly happier, while those who frowned felt angrier.

  • Later studies replicated this effect using different cover stories to manipulate facial expressions, showing the ‘as if principle’ is genuine. By changing behavior, people can change how they feel.

  • This suggests people can intentionally make themselves feel emotions like happiness or cheerfulness simply by smiling and acting in an associated manner, supporting James’ idea that behavior influences emotion, not just the other way around. It provided empirical evidence for James’ long-ignored theory.

  • Researcher Paul Ekman conducted studies showing that adopting facial expressions of emotions like anger, fear, happiness caused corresponding physiological changes like heart rate and skin temperature, even without genuine feelings. This shows behaviors influence feelings.

  • Brain scanning studies found that adopting a fearful facial expression activated the amygdala, the area linked to processing fear emotions. This provided direct evidence behaviors shape brain activity.

  • The author conducted a large-scale “Science of Happiness Project” involving over 26,000 people in the UK. Those asked to smile regularly reported higher happiness levels a week later, supporting the “As If” principle. A follow-up national poll found more people reporting feeling happier, suggesting the project may have lifted national mood.

  • Other research showed different walking styles like “striders” are associated with happiness, while “shufflers” seem sad. A study found people who adopted a “striding” gait reported feeling happier, further supporting that behaviors shape feelings as William James theorized.

  • Researchers have found that enacting positive body language and behaviors can unconsciously influence feelings of happiness, even without an actual situational change.

  • One study asked participants to take either long, fluid strides or short, shuffling steps while walking. Those taking long strides felt significantly happier, showing the impact of the “as if” principle.

  • Handshaking studies found that people felt happier, closer and viewed the experimenter more positively after a smooth, fluid handshake compared to a jerky up-and-down one.

  • Another experiment had participants read positive self-statements out loud. This led to genuine mood improvements compared to reading neutral facts, showing words can influence feelings.

  • Laughter clubs were created where people deliberately laugh together without jokes. Acting happy through laughter still generates physiological and psychological benefits.

  • One study compared laughter, smiling, and howling (as a control). Laughter led to the greatest improvements in mood, demonstrating active behaviors can uplift feelings more than passive ones.

Here is a summary of the key points about love from the provided information:

  • Love has been a topic of interest and confusion throughout history. While poets, writers and philosophers have tried to define it, love remains elusive.

  • Archaeologists recently discovered what is believed to be the world’s oldest love letter, showing love’s importance across cultures and time periods.

  • Though love is a universal human experience, a few isolated communities have tried to ban it, only to fail as love persisted in covert ways.

  • Psychological research into love is relatively new. Despite love’s ubiquity, it is only recently that psychologists have seriously studied the nature and mysteries of this important human emotion.

  • While definitions and understanding of love vary, it clearly involves strong feelings and attraction that most humans experience in romantic relationships to some degree. Capturing love’s full essence through words alone seems difficult given its complexity.

I have tried to discuss the key ideas about love’s definition, history and psychological study from the provided information while avoiding any direct copying or unattributed quotations due to copyright concerns, as you instructed. Please let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any aspect of the summary.

  • In the 1960s, psychologists were hesitant to study relationships, attraction and love due to taboos. They lacked understanding of why students warmed to the anonymous “Black Bag” student.

  • In the 1970s, researchers like Elaine Hatfield began systematically studying love and attraction, facing some criticism. One early study found men were much more receptive than women to offers of casual sex from strangers.

  • Further research found attraction increases with prolonged contact, explaining bonds with Black Bag. It also revealed two types of love - passionate (excitement of new relationships) and compassionate (attachment in long-term relationships).

  • Studies explored attraction in bars, speed-dating, ads and more. While models of love were proposed, it remained difficult to fully understand. Research did track how love changes from new dating to marriage over time. Overall, the passage discusses the evolution of psychological research on relationships, attraction and love since the 1960s.

  • Early research on emotions attempted to identify distinct bodily sensation patterns for different emotions like anger, fear, happiness after inducing those emotions in participants. But the bodily sensations were often quite similar regardless of the emotion.

  • Stanley Schachter conducted a classic experiment to solve this mystery in the 1960s. Participants were told they received a vitamin injection but were actually given epinephrine, which causes arousal.

  • One participant then acted euphoric in the waiting room to induce arousal in the other participant. When asked their mood, participants attributed their arousal to whatever emotion seemed appropriate given the context (e.g. euphoria from the other person).

  • This showed that people interpret their bodily arousal based on contextual cues, not that distinct arousal patterns exist for different emotions. Without context, arousal alone is ambiguous. Schachter resolved the longstanding failure to identify distinct arousal profiles for specific emotions.

  • Schachter hypothesized that all bodily sensations are caused by a physiological system that functions like a tug-of-war between two teams - the “red team” that activates the fight or flight response, and the “blue team” that calms the body down.

  • The intensity of activation of these teams determines the level of arousal, but not the specific emotion experienced.

  • Schachter proposed that emotions are experienced through a two-step process: 1) A physiological arousal occurs, and 2) The situation is cognitively appraised to label the emotion.

  • He tested this using adrenaline injections and different social contexts. Participants felt happy when with a jovial confederate, but angry with an irritable one, showing emotions are situation-dependent.

  • This challenges the idea that emotions cause physiological arousal - instead arousal precedes and enables emotional labeling.

  • The theory explains how the same behaviors can occur for different emotions of equal intensity, like crying from happiness or sadness.

  • It also provides an explanation for how environmental factors like heat can influence aggressive behaviors through physiological misattribution.

  • Studies showed that increasing a person’s heart rate, like through exercise or a funny/scary movie, made them find an attractive person they saw afterwards more sexually appealing. This supported the idea that people misattribute physiological arousal as feelings of passion or love.

  • Other experiments found similar results by having people encounter an attractive person right after a scary experience like a rollercoaster ride or crossing a high, unstable bridge.

  • This helps explain phenomena like unrequited love seeming to increase longing, and barriers to a relationship paradoxically inflaming passion rather than dampening it, as in the stories of Romeo and Juliet.

  • More research on this “As If” principle of emotion looked at whether aspects of love could be induced or manipulated in a lab setting by controlling people’s physiological arousal and interpretations of their feelings. This area of studying love in a scientific way was just beginning.

  • Francis Galton, a 19th century scientist, suggested secretly incorporating pressure gauges into furniture legs to measure how intensely lovers leaned on chairs. He conducted some experiments but did not pursue the idea further.

  • In the 1970s, researchers observed couples in love at bars and parties, confirming behaviors like close proximity, eye contact, touching, etc.

  • Inspired by research on acting happy to feel happy, Kenneth Gergen experimented with pairs of strangers in a dark room, finding high rates of touch and intimacy developed.

  • Daniel Wegner found that having strangers secretly play footsie made them feel attracted to each other.

  • Arthur Aron had pairs engage in blindfolded activities like dancing and drawing together, finding they felt closer afterward.

  • Robert Epstein wondered if laboratory findings could produce real passion. He announced an experiment to discover if strangers could learn to love each other by behaving as if in love.

So in summary, the passage discusses the history of research on measuring and inducing feelings of love through behavior, finding signs of intimacy and attraction can develop when strangers interact intimately or act “as if in love.”

  • Epstein proposed an experiment where he and a selected woman would spend 6-12 months following rules to promote love and author a book about their experiences. Over 1000 women volunteered but he rejected them all.

  • On a flight in 2002 he met Gabriela Castillo and asked her to participate. They signed a “love contract” on Valentine’s Day but struggled with the long-distance relationship and eventually abandoned the experiment after a few months.

  • Epstein then developed exercises to promote love outside the lab, like embracing, eye contact, that he tested on student couples at UCSD. Self-reports found the couples felt emotionally closer afterwards.

  • He then ran a study using these principles in a “speed dating” setting with romantic prompts and activities. The “success rate” of both partners wanting to see each other again was 45%, much higher than typical speed dating sessions.

  • The summary provides an example of one couple, Lianne and Nick, who met through this study and are now in a loving relationship, suggesting the “as if” principles can help foster real connections.

  • Finally, it discusses how Arthur Aron had existing couples do novel activities to reduce boredom, finding boredom is a factor in unhappy marriages, suggesting “as if” can help rekindle existing relationships.

  • The study looked at how paralysis affects emotion, as predicted by William James’ hypothesis that behavior creates feelings, not the other way around.

  • George Hohmann studied veterans with spinal cord injuries at different levels of the spine, paralyzing different parts of the body. Higher injuries disrupted more of the body’s communication network.

  • Hohmann found that patients with higher injuries, paralyzing more of their body, reported greater reductions in their ability to experience emotions like fear after their injury. This provided support for James’ idea.

  • The findings suggested that being unable to act due to paralysis can decrease emotional experiences. This laid the foundation for using the As If principle to treat problems like phobias, anxiety, and depression by getting patients to act differently. Approaching issues this way may help people move past psychological disorders.

So in summary, the study provided early evidence that acting differently can indeed influence emotions and feelings, as the As If principle suggests, opening up new approaches to dealing with mental health issues.

  • Researchers found that damage to the upper spine reduced patients’ ability to experience emotions like fear and anger. This supported William James’ idea that bodily expressions influence emotional experiences.

  • Another study found that Botox injections which paralyzed facial muscles also reduced women’s emotional reactions to videos, providing more evidence for James’ theory.

  • Chinese children undergoing tonsillectomies exhibited less pain than Western children due to being taught to behave in a relaxed, positive manner.

  • Experiments found that distracting from pain (e.g. looking away during procedures) or behaving toughly reduced pain, showing the subjective nature of pain.

  • Adopting powerful postures reduced pain from a tourniquet more than powerless postures, indicating behaviors can push away unwanted emotions.

  • Research on controlling anger looked at whether the “as if” principle could minimize unwanted emotions beyond just pain. Adopting calm behaviors reduced agitation and aggression in provoking situations. This research provided inspiration for using behaviors to regulate emotions.

The passage discusses two contrasting views on anger and catharsis:

  • Freud believed that repressing angry thoughts leads to psychological problems, and venting anger through catharsis like shouting is healthy and can relieve underlying anger.

  • William James disagreed and thought venting anger encourages further angry behavior rather than relieving it. Catharsis he believed would make people angrier.

Several studies are described that tested these views:

  • A study of parents found couples who engaged in verbal aggression were more likely to be physically aggressive, supporting James.

  • Interviewing angry employees about their anger made them angrier, while neutral questions did not, again supporting James.

  • Research on sports fans found attending aggressive games like football increased anger rather than relieving it, in line with James’s view.

Overall, the studies described in the passage consistently showed that catharsis and venting anger does not relieve it as Freud believed, but rather encourages further angry behavior, supporting William James’s perspective on anger and catharsis.

  • Psychologist Brad Bushman conducted experiments showing that acting calm can help people actually feel calm, whereas acting aggressively tends to increase feelings of anger and hostility.

  • One study found that students who played a violent video game before were more aggressive than those who played a relaxing game. Another found that praying or quietly sitting made students less angry after a frustrating task than punching a punching bag.

  • Experiments have shown that behaviors like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or other calming activities can help reduce anger more quickly and effectively than trying to intellectually analyze the underlying psychological causes.

  • The passage discusses the early history of behaviorism with John B. Watson. It outlines Watson’s experimental work with rats in mazes and how he believed human behavior could be shaped through learning principles observed in animals.

  • Watson opposed Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and speculations. The passage uses the example of Freud’s case study on “Little Hans” and his phobia of horses to illustrate Watson’s objections to Freud’s ideas.

  • John Watson was influentially shaped by Ivan Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning with dogs. Pavlov showed that stimuli could be associated with physiological responses through repeated pairing.

  • Watson wondered if phobias could be explained by the same classical conditioning mechanism. He conducted an experiment with an infant named Albert B. to test this.

  • Watson conditioned Albert to fear rats by repeatedly pairing the sight of a rat with a loud bang from a hammer on a steel bar, which startled Albert and made him cry. After a few trials, Albert exhibited distress simply from seeing the rat.

  • Two months later, Albert’s fear had generalized to other furry objects as well. This supported Watson’s theory that phobias are classically conditioned responses, not caused by Freudian theories like sexuality.

  • Systematic desensitization was later developed as an effective treatment for phobias by exposing people gradually to feared stimuli while learning to relax. This changes the conditioned association over time.

  • Panic attacks were also explained as conditioned physiological responses combined with cognitive appraisal, influenced by David Clark’s application of Schachter’s two-factor theory of emotion. Treatments focus on changing responses rather than uncovering unconscious meanings.

  • Clark believed panic attacks occurred when people misinterpreted normal bodily sensations like increased heart rate and sweating in a catastrophic way, thinking they were having a heart attack.

  • He found that teaching people to reinterpret these sensations as signs of mild anxiety, rather than imminent medical disaster, was remarkably effective at treating panic attacks.

  • His approach involved encouraging patients to see sensations like increased heart rate as evidence their body felt slightly anxious, rather than a sign of impending doom.

  • Explaining the physiological reasons for sensations like feeling short of breath, like blood flowing away from the brain during anxiety, helped ease fears patients might faint.

  • Research showed reinterpreting bodily sensations was more effective than relaxation therapy or drugs in treating panic attacks.

  • This same approach of helping people positively reframe anxiety symptoms has also been used to treat issues like exam nerves, public speaking anxiety, and pre-hospitalization jitters.

  • Psychologists have developed alternative ways to treat depression besides drugs or brain surgery, including cognitive therapy and changing thought patterns.

  • Cognitive therapy aims to help people identify problematic thought patterns like self-blame, expectations of future failure, and applying failures to other areas of life. It encourages more positive self-explanations.

  • Research shows cognitive therapy can be as effective as drug therapies for depression. Governments have adopted it due to this.

  • Another technique is based on the idea that behavior affects emotions, known as the “as if” principle. Studies show facial expressions can impact mood - smiling leads to happier memories.

  • For depression, spending more time inactive like in bed can worsen low moods. Alternatives like dancing or behavioral goals have been shown to improve depression by changing patterns.

  • Behavioral activation therapy aims to identify problematic avoidance behaviors and set goals to engage in positive activities again to impart change from the “bottom up.” This targets withdrawal patterns that maintain depressive symptoms.

  • Psychologists have tried to understand motivation by studying how rewards influence behavior, based on research using pigeons in cages. It was assumed rewards would similarly motivate humans.

  • However, applying reward systems to real-world human behaviors often had no long-term effect or actually deterred the desired behaviors. Incentives are not always effective motivators.

  • One study found smokers given rewards or incentives to quit smoking through a program were less successful than those not given incentives, who acted as a control group.

  • Rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation to perform a behavior. People begin to value the reward itself rather than finding value or enjoyment in the activity.

  • Punishment is also an ineffective motivator that often deters the behavior being punished as well as other behaviors. It does not teach new skills or desired behaviors.

  • Small positive changes in behavior or environment may have a bigger cumulative impact on motivation than external rewards or punishments. Focusing on progress rather than specific goals or timelines can be more effective.

  • Several studies examined the effectiveness of using rewards to encourage desirable behaviors like seat belt use, reading, and smoking cessation. While rewards seemed to work initially, they did not lead to sustained long-term changes in behavior.

  • One study found that students who were rewarded for drawing were less likely to engage in drawing activities later on, compared to students who were not rewarded. This suggests that rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation.

  • Edward Deci’s puzzle experiment found that participants who were paid to solve a puzzle were less likely to continue playing with it later, when unobserved, compared to those who were not paid. This supported the “As If” principle - that rewards make an activity feel like a chore rather than something enjoyable.

  • Other factors like job redesign and management strategies were explored as alternative ways to motivate people intrinsically rather than relying solely on extrinsic rewards like money or gifts. In general, the research showed rewards are not very effective for long-term behavioral changes.

The passage discusses how role playing and small commitments can significantly impact behavior, citing several influential psychology studies. It describes Leon Mann’s study where heavy smokers role-played having lung cancer and significantly reduced their smoking long-term compared to a control group.

It then discusses how the “as if” principle and foot-in-the-door technique, where people make small initial commitments, can motivate larger changes. Studies found people were far more likely to donate to charity or participate in energy conservation after first agreeing to small requests. Similar effects occurred with signing online petitions, asking for directions, etc. before larger asks.

The foot-in-the-door technique works because small acts cause people to see themselves behaving consistently with the new identity (e.g. charitable, eco-friendly). Salespeople often use low-balling to get customers invested in products. While it can motivate positive change, the technique was also misused by the Greek military junta to gradually train soldiers to become torturers. In summary, role playing and small commitments can significantly impact behavior through the as if principle and foot-in-the-door effect.

  • Psychologist Shawn Burn conducted an experiment to see if the foot-in-the-door technique could promote recycling. He targeted households in Claremont, CA that did not recycle.

  • Boy Scouts were trained to give a speech about the importance of recycling. They went door-to-door asking residents to sign a recycling pledge card and putting a sticker on their door.

  • Those who were visited increased recycling by 20%, while those not visited only increased by 3%. Signing a pledge and displaying a sticker had a significant impact on motivating recycling behavior.

  • This shows how small initial commitments using the foot-in-the-door technique can lead to more significant behavior changes. It has been used effectively in other areas like public health campaigns to promote healthier choices.

  • Simply getting people to act “as if” they intend to change their behavior through small, initial actions can influence them to make real behavior changes in important areas like reducing waste and improving wellness.

Here is a summary of the key points about Stanley Schachter’s theory on eating behavior:

  • Schachter proposed that people can base their decision to eat on either internal signals from their body (i.e. feeling of hunger) or external cues from their environment.

  • He termed those who focus more on internal signals as “internals” and those who are more influenced by external cues as “externals”.

  • Internals will eat based on feelings of hunger and stop when full. Externals are more susceptible to environmental cues like sight of food to decide to eat.

  • In societies with abundant food, externals are at risk of overeating as they are constantly exposed to food triggers. This can lead to overweightness.

  • Experiments by Nisbett and Goldman provided support for Schachter’s theory - externals ate more when presented with multiple sandwiches and felt more discomfort fasting away from food cues on Yom Kippur.

  • The theory has implications for dieting - focusing inward on hunger cues rather than outward food triggers can help externals better regulate eating and lose weight.

  • Some researchers in the past theorized that North Korea brainwashed American POWs during the Korean War using methods like flashing lights, white noise, hypnosis, or drugs to get them to reject their home country.

  • In reality, the As If principle was at play. North Korea persuaded some POWs to identify with communist ideals by getting them to behave “as if” they believed in those ideals, through techniques like confessing supposed war crimes and criticizing their home country in scripted sessions.

  • Saying things out loud and behaving in aligned ways can influence internal beliefs over time through cognitive dissonance and other psychological processes. This shows how the As If principle can be used to change minds on a large scale, for better or worse.

  • Understanding what really happened with the POWs provides insights into the challenges of persuasion more broadly. Simply presenting facts often fails to change minds, while getting people to act differently through small commitments can reshape their internal viewpoint in a self-sustaining way.

The key takeaway is that the As If principle, by leveraging the psychological impact of action and expression on beliefs, has powerful applications - both positive and negative - when it comes to societal-level persuasion and motivation. How it is applied depends on the intentions and ethical standards of those wielding this influence.

Public health campaigns often rely on informing people about the negative health impacts of behaviors like smoking, drinking, and an unhealthy diet in order to change those behaviors. However, this approach does not always work because people do not necessarily change their beliefs and behaviors even when presented with clear evidence.

Andrew Maxwell’s documentary followed conspiracy theorists who believed alternative theories about 9/11, taking them to meet experts who provided evidence contradicting their beliefs. However, their beliefs remained unchanged after interacting with evidence. Similarly, members of the Heaven’s Gate cult saw a comet through a powerful telescope but did not question their belief that a spaceship was hidden behind it.

Research has shown that people are biased in how they process information, remembering evidence that supports their existing beliefs and dismissing contrary evidence. They also avoid interacting with those who disagree. As a result, public health campaigns telling smokers about cancer risks may not change smoker beliefs, and obese individuals presented with the health impacts of an unhealthy diet may not change their diets.

Experiments by Leonard Bickman found that while 94% of people said others should pick up litter, only 2% actually did so when litter was left near them. Similarly, Daniel Batson found that people who rated themselves as highly moral were actually less likely to behave honestly when given the opportunity to benefit themselves in an experiment. This shows a disconnect between expressed beliefs and actual behaviors.

Here is a summary of key points about predicting behavior from the passage:

  • Psychological research has found that people are often poor at aligning their beliefs and behaviors. Government campaigns to change behaviors like smoking or eating habits often fail despite targeting beliefs.

  • Theories proposed that some beliefs are deep-seated “folkways” that are difficult to change directly. Early Supreme Court decisions supported this view on racial segregation.

  • However, after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregated schools, surveys showed public support for desegregation increased significantly within a few years.

  • Psychologist Daryl Bem analyzed this shift and proposed the “As If” principle - that behaving as if one believes something can unconsciously shape one’s actual beliefs over time. By requiring desegregation, the ruling may have led people to behave and then believe in racial equality.

  • Subsequent laboratory experiments sought to test if the As If principle could directly manipulate beliefs through induced behaviors, beyond just observational surveys. The theory suggests controlling behaviors may be an effective way to indirectly shape beliefs and predict resulting behaviors down the line. But more research was still needed to conclusively prove the principle in controlled settings.

In summary, the passage discusses how psychological theories of embedded “folkways” initially predicted belief and behavior change would be difficult, but Bem’s proposal that induced behaviors could indirectly shape beliefs provided a model for potentially predicting and manipulating behaviors through unconscious belief formation over time according to the “As If” principle.

  • During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson would send officials who privately doubted the war on fact-finding missions to Vietnam, along with reporters. This was done to force the doubters to publicly defend the administration’s policies and convince themselves through their own words.

  • Researchers tested the “As If” principle, where acting as if one believes something can influence actually believing it. They had participants give speeches arguing for a political party they opposed. Those who gave speeches later reported being more open to that party.

  • Acting “as if” can change beliefs on various issues like abortion or police powers. Prisoners of war in Korea were subjected to “as if” tactics by China like writing and reading pro-communist statements, influencing some to stay in Korea.

  • Small gestures or behaviors may subtly influence beliefs and attitudes through unconscious reciprocation, like rating a scenario more favorably while making a thumbs up versus middle finger gesture. Nodding versus shaking one’s head can also influence agreement levels.

  • Research found that people who sat in hard chairs during negotiations with a stranger saw the stranger as less likable compared to those who sat in soft chairs. The evidence suggests that hard furniture can create a more rigid and inflexible mindset.

  • Jane Elliott conducted a powerful classroom exercise in the late 1960s where she told her students that blue-eyed children were superior to brown-eyed children and gave them special privileges. This led the blue-eyed children to act arrogantly while the brown-eyed children became timid. When she reversed it, their behaviors flipped too. This demonstrated how quickly beliefs and behaviors can be manipulated.

  • In the late 1960s, another teacher, Ron Jones, conducted a similar experiment where he created a student group called the “Third Wave” to demonstrate authoritarian tendencies. Over 100 students joined and demanded strict obedience until Jones revealed it was intended to show how easily people’s behaviors can be influenced.

  • Questionnaires can manufacture beliefs by priming people to think about past behaviors that are aligned or not aligned with the beliefs in question. Recalling green behaviors makes people more likely to endorse pro-environmental beliefs compared to recalling non-green behaviors.

  • In short, the evidence demonstrates that our behaviors and mindsets can be significantly influenced by subtle social and environmental cues through the As If mechanism, even shaping our beliefs about the past and others. This highlights the importance of considering how we can constructively influence behaviors and social dynamics.

  • The story of the fox unable to reach grapes in an orchard illustrates the “sour grapes” principle - when unable to obtain something, we convince ourselves we didn’t want it anyway. This shows how our actions influence our beliefs.

  • Studies found people rated an item they chose as a “gift” as more desirable afterwards, showing how behavior causes beliefs. Bettors also felt more confident in horses they chose after betting.

  • Research found people feeling lonely or excluded rated rooms as colder, showing the link between warmth and social connection. Warming people up also made them view others more positively.

  • A study tried changing kids’ views of vegetables by having them eat ones they disliked - afterwards they rated them higher, showing behavior can influence beliefs.

  • Another experiment had participants deliver supposed electric shocks to another person, finding they then viewed that person less favorably, showing how actions shape subsequent attitudes.

The key idea is that the “As If” principle - that our actions influence our subsequent beliefs as we justify our behavior - has been demonstrated in various studies on choices, risk-taking, food preferences, social judgments and more. Our behavior shapes our beliefs in unconsciously seeking consistency.

  • Muzafer Sherif conducted an experiment in the 1960s where he divided 22 twelve-year-old boys into two groups and sent each group to separate, hidden camps in a state park.

  • Initially, the goal was for each group to bond through joint activities like hiking, baseball, and swimming. This was successful, as each group took on its own identity and name (Rattlers and Eagles).

  • Next, Sherif intentionally created competition and conflict between the groups by telling each that the other had also been using the camp’s shared baseball field and resources.

  • This led the groups to agree to a game of baseball to determine dominance, which quickly escalated into antagonism and fighting between group members.

  • Through this experiment, Sherif inadvertently demonstrated how the As If principle can be used to either bond groups together through cooperation, or divide them through instigated rivalry and conflict, depending on the conditions created. The experiment provided insights into intergroup relations and conflict.

Sherif conducted an experiment where he divided boys into two groups, the Rattlers and the Eagles. He had them compete over access to a baseball field, causing conflict and aggression between the groups. Their camps came to resemble the chaotic scenario depicted in Lord of the Flies.

To remedy this, Sherif staged fake emergencies requiring cooperation. This included fixing a damaged water supply and helping start a truck. Working together positively changed how the groups viewed each other. Their hostility vanished and they started bonding.

Inspired by this, other researchers explored how getting groups to act in unison, like marching or singing together, can help them bond quickly. Aronson developed the “jigsaw method” for integrated classrooms, where students learn different parts of a topic and then teach each other, promoting cooperation over competition. This reduced prejudice and improved academic performance and attendance. It helped shy students like Carlos gain confidence by having to contribute to the group. Overall, acting as a unit seems to facilitate forming connections between individuals.

  • Carlos was a shy, withdrawn student who struggled socially and academically in school. Psychologist Elliot Aronson visited Carlos’ school and implemented the jigsaw classroom method, where students work in small groups composed of different races and social groups.

  • Using the jigsaw method, the other students in Carlos’ group made an effort to include him by asking him questions and clearly listening to his answers. This boosted Carlos’ self-esteem and engagement. As a result, his performance improved.

  • Many years later, Carlos came across Aronson’s book that described the jigsaw method and recognized himself in the story. By then, Carlos had just been admitted to Harvard Law School.

  • Carlos wrote Aronson a letter recalling his visit to the school and how the jigsaw method transformed enemies into friends. Carlos explained that he was writing the letter to thank Aronson, as Aronson had “saved his life” just as much as the midwife who resuscitated him when he was born. The jigsaw method gave Carlos the social and academic confidence to succeed in his education and career.

The As If principle suggests that our behaviors can influence our sense of identity and emotions, rather than the other way around. Experiments have tested this by manipulating behaviors and measuring changes in personal assessments.

In one study, volunteers who were told they had to eat a worm ended up reporting lower self-esteem afterwards compared to those doing a less humiliating task. Subsequent research showed that experimentally inducing feelings of low self-worth caused people to accept further demeaning experiences.

Other experiments found that behaviors like wearing glasses, adopting powerful poses, or forming fists temporarily boosted self-reported feelings of confidence and risk-tolerance. Merely posing in a dominant way for a short time was enough to physically increase testosterone and decrease cortisol levels.

These findings suggest that confident behaviors and mindsets can be adopted through body language and actions alone, without consciously changing underlying thoughts, as a quick way to influence feelings of self-worth and empowerment according to the As If principle. Manipulating behaviors provides a route to modifying emotions and identity from the outside-in rather than needing to address inner mental states.

  • Psychologists conducted an experiment asking participants to write down their best or worst traits using either their dominant or non-dominant hand. Writing negative traits with the non-dominant hand actually increased confidence, as it made the writing look shakier.

  • Journalist John Howard Griffin underwent medical treatments to temporarily change his skin color from white to black, in order to experience racism faced by African Americans in the Southern US. Looking in the mirror with his changed appearance, he felt like a different person and that his old identity had disappeared.

  • Other studies show that clothing can significantly impact how people view you and your abilities. Men approached more women and had higher success rates when dressed as firefighters rather than civilians. Women also indicated being more willing to have sex with men in suits versus uniforms.

  • Even small changes like wearing a tie versus no tie made a big difference, with people much more likely to participate in surveys.

  • Research on sports teams found those wearing black uniforms tended to engage in more aggressive on-field behaviors that violated rules, based on penalty yardage and time spent in the penalty box. Teams that switched from other colors to black also showed increased aggressiveness after the change.

  • The studies suggest that your clothing and how you present yourself can influence your own self-perception and sense of identity in that moment, not just how others perceive you.

  • Philip Zimbardo conducted a famous experiment in the 1970s where he set up a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University.

  • He recruited students to play the roles of prisoners and guards. The prisoners were confined in cells and the guards were in charge of overseeing them.

  • Zimbardo wanted to study how people’s behavior and identity can change based on their assigned roles and environments.

  • Within only a few days, both the prisoners and guards started to take on their roles very seriously and act in characteristic ways - the guards became authoritarian and abusive while the prisoners became withdrawn and subordinate.

  • The experiment had to be stopped early because things were getting out of control, with the roles and environments completely transforming people’s behavior and identity in a very short time period.

  • Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment demonstrated the powerful impact of situational factors and social roles on human behavior, in line with the As If principle discussed in the chapter. People took on the identities implied by their assigned roles and environments.

So in summary, it highlighted how readily people will adapt their behavior and sense of self based on external cues and expectations, even in an artificial experimental setting like a mock prison.

  • George Kelly was a traveling psychologist who developed techniques to help people adopt new identities and change problematic behaviors, which he called “fixed-role therapy.”

  • One early technique was “mirror time” where clients spent 30 minutes reflecting on their self-image. However, Kelly found this not very helpful.

  • Instead, he drew on his experience teaching public speaking and developed exercises where clients imagined and role-played adopting a new identity.

  • The process involved understanding one’s current self-image, designing an alternative identity, thinking through how this new identity would behave, and then role-playing it for about two weeks.

  • Interestingly, Kelly found that after a few weeks of behaving in a new way, people started to forget they were playing a role and developed a new identity as that role became integrated into who they saw themselves as.

In summary, Kelly pioneered techniques drawing on acting “as if” to help clients adopt therapeutic new identities and change problematic behaviors through extensive role playing and identity transformation exercises.

  • Jeremy Bailenson runs a lab studying virtual reality and computer-generated avatars. He wondered if the as-if principle - the idea that acting as if you have a certain trait can make you feel like you have that trait - would apply in virtual worlds.

  • He looked specifically at the online game World of Warcraft. In the game, players create avatars of different races that have predetermined heights - for example gnomes are short while trolls are tall.

  • Bailenson and his colleague Nick Yee studied data from over 76,000 players and found that players with relatively tall avatars (trolls, orcs) progressed further in the game than those with shorter avatars (dwarves, gnomes).

  • This suggests the as-if principle operates in virtual worlds as well. Players who took on tall avatars in the game acted more assertively, mimicking how taller people behave in real life. It demonstrates virtual worlds can influence behavior just like real world experiences.

  • Psychologist Ellen Langer conducted several experiments investigating aging and the concept of behaving “as if” younger through the use of virtual reality or nostalgia.

  • One study found that giving elderly nursing home residents small tasks like caring for a plant improved their happiness, health and longevity compared to a control group.

  • Another study asked elderly residents questions to encourage mental activity, finding improvements in memory and reduced mortality rates years later.

  • Langer’s most famous study had elderly men either relive or reminisce about 1959 for a week. The “time travel” group was immersed in 1959 experiences and asked to behave as if it was 1959. This group showed improved physical and mental performance compared to the control group.

  • Acting younger through fully embracing nostalgia and behaving “as if” seemed to produce psychological and physiological benefits for the elderly participants. Langer’s work demonstrated the potential impact of the “as if” principle to influence aging.

  • Researchers have found evidence that the body influences the mind, not just the other way around as traditionally believed. This is known as the “As If” principle - acting as if certain emotions or characteristics are true can actually make them feel true.

  • The work of William James in the early 1900s first proposed this idea that behavior influences thoughts and feelings, not just the reverse. Later experiments provided evidence supporting his theory.

  • Techniques based on the “As If” principle have been shown to effectively help people with things like happiness, anxiety, motivation, confidence, creativity and more. They involve changing behavior rather than directly trying to change thoughts.

  • Examples include smiling to feel happier, straight posture for confidence, muscle clenching for willpower. Larger changes are also possible over time using these behavior-first methods.

  • The “As If” principle may provide a unifying theory for psychology, explaining diverse human phenomena from emotions to personality. It also has practical applications for self-development through simple, effective techniques.

  • Continued research is exploring this idea further, and it is now an accepted part of mainstream psychological understanding, over a century after it was first proposed.

Researchers point to evidence from hypnotism, brain surgery, and split-brain experiments to argue that the As If principle operates in everyday human life. In hypnotism experiments, subjects given post-hypnotic suggestions acted according to instructions but rationalized their behavior afterwards. Brain surgery experiments found that stimulating parts of the brain controlling movements caused subjects to move but rationalize the actions. Split-brain experiments showing different images to each hemisphere found subjects combined behaviors cued to each side but concocted unified explanations. This suggests the mind has separate systems for deciding actions and observing/rationalizing them, supporting the idea that humans act mentally “as if” they had conscious insight and control but really have separate processes underlying behavior. The evidence convincingly shows the As If principle is not just a curiosity but fundamentally shapes all human thought and experience.

  • The passage discusses William James’s theory that emotions are not simply feelings that arise spontaneously, but that how we act can shape how we feel. This “As If” principle suggests that by acting as if we have a certain emotion, we may come to genuinely experience that emotion.

  • James developed this idea over a century ago, and over subsequent research it has been shown to apply to many psychological phenomena like persuasion, fear, passion, and personality.

  • The As If theory provides valuable insight into the fundamental nature of the human mind, and has the power to change lives and societies by helping people improve their lives.

  • The author argues it is time to abandon outdated views of psychology and fully embrace James’s radical but impactful As If theory. Applying its principles can help people change how they think and behave to better themselves and the world.

Here is a summary of the key paper:

The paper titled “Choral singing and psychological wellbeing” published in the Journal of Applied Arts and Health in 2010 investigated the relationship between choral singing and psychological well-being. The paper analyzed previous research that examined the effects of group singing on mood, stress levels, mental health, and quality of life.

The studies reviewed found that singing in a choir was associated with reduced levels of cortisol and increased levels of immunoglobulin A, both indicators of reduced stress. Choir singing was also linked to improved mood and decreased levels of anxiety. Individuals reported that choir singing made them feel less lonely and depressed and increased their sense of social connectedness. Several studies also found improvements in general health and quality of life from regular choir participation.

The paper concluded that preliminary evidence suggests choral singing serves as a relaxing leisure activity that can enhance psychological well-being and decrease stress through physical, cognitive, and social engagement. However, more rigorous research is still needed to fully understand the psychological benefits of choir singing.

Here are summaries of the key articles:

D. (1975) studied the effect of irrational beliefs on emotional arousal. They found that holding irrational beliefs, as defined by Ellis, led to increased emotional arousal.

Langer et al. (1975) examined the effect of reducing psychological stress in surgical patients through emotional role playing therapy. They found role playing reduced stress compared to controls.

Schnall et al. (2008) suggested disgust functions as an embodied moral judgment, eliciting judgments of purity and impurity.

Zhong & Liljenquist (2006) found that reminders of immorality or threats to morality led people to engage in more physical cleansing behaviors like hand washing.

Ben-Noun (2003) and Huisman (2007) both discussed schizophrenia or depression as potential explanations for King Saul’s mental affliction mentioned in the Bible.

Myers (2001) was a psychology textbook that likely discussed many topics in general psychology but was not focused on willpower specifically.

Cuijpers et al. (2008) and Imel et al. (2008) were meta-analyses comparing the effectiveness of psychological and pharmacological interventions for depression, finding them to have similar efficacy.

Here is a summary of the key points from the provided chapter outline:

  • Personality traits are fairly stable, but can be subtly influenced by situational factors like role-playing an occupation through clothing or body language. Wearing a doctor’s lab coat can make people act more intelligent.

  • Self-perception theory suggests our attitudes and behaviors are influenced by how we think others see us. Acting confident through “power poses” like expansive body language can increase testosterone and tolerance for risk.

  • Temporarily taking on a different social identity, like a Black man did passing as White in the 1960s, showed how environment and treatment influences self-perception and psychological experiences. Uniforms can influence perceptions of authority or aggression.

  • Embodiment research shows even subtle gestures and metaphors like power poses or clenching a fist can influence thoughts and behaviors. The famous Stanford prison experiment demonstrated how role-playing prisoner and guard identities radically transformed participants’ mindsets and interactions.

  • Studies on choice and expectation indicate we will sometimes choose and endure unpleasant tasks simply because we are expecting to, showing self-fulfilling prophecies and commitment tendencies at play in identity formation. Situation and expectations clearly interact with traits in shaping behavior.

Here is a summary of the key points from the references provided:

  • Reference 19 looked at whether work experiences are associated with personality change in women. It found that plaster/plasticity (malleability) was associated with personality changes.

  • Reference 20 examined the reciprocal effects of work complexity and intellectual flexibility over time. It found that more complex work was linked to greater flexibility.

  • References 21-22 described different approaches to psychotherapy and experimental studies on modeling and role playing in treating avoidance behaviors and promoting attitude change.

  • Reference 23 noted that the exercises described are meant for insight only and serious problems require professional help.

  • Reference 24 listed character strengths and virtues drawn from prior work.

  • Reference 25 offered help for making a particular change discussed earlier.

  • References 26-27 examined the Proteus effect and how virtual self-modeling can influence real-world exercise behaviors.

  • Reference 28 found that age-progressed renderings of the future self can increase savings behavior.

  • References 29-32 described research on the effects of perceived control and autonomy on well-being, memory, and longevity in institutionalized elderly populations. Mindfulness and mindsets were factors.

  • References 33-34 further examined the role of mindsets and age cues on variables like visual acuity and health.

  • References 35-36 discussed the benefits of leisure activities and social engagement on dementia and longevity.

Here is a summary of the specified research, pages, and topics:

  • Research from pages 153, 162, 165-168, 174, and 180-183 focuses on social psychological experiments studying the effects of things like eye color labels, persuasive techniques like the foot-in-the-door phenomenon, producing short-term hatred in subjects, and how people justify harmful or unethical acts.

  • Pages 80, 82 discuss research on pain management techniques in China, including distraction and hypnosis.

  • Page 190 describes the choleric or anxious extrovert personality type.

  • Page 126 mentions the social psychologist Robert Cialdini and his work on compliance and persuasion.

  • Pages 156-157, 159 discuss the American civil rights movement and desegregation efforts.

  • Pages 237-239 describe an experiment with hypnotism subject Claire where she was given a post-hypnotic suggestion.

  • Page 128 notes a recycling program in Claremont, California.

  • Pages 38-39 feature psychologist David Clark and his anger expression experiments with boxing.

  • Pages 85, 106 mention Clark University and some of the early research conducted there.

  • Pages 93, 94 discuss classical conditioning pioneered by Ivan Pavlov and expanded on by John B. Watson.

  • Pages 204-207 summarize research on the effects of clothing color, like black, on oneself and others.

Here is a summary of the key points from ugh, 26–31 and laughter clubs, 26–28:

  • Exercise can promote laughter through laughter clubs or laughter yoga classes. These groups purposefully laugh together even in the absence of humor. The forced laughter can induce real laughter through a feedback loop in the brain.

  • Laughter has physiological benefits like reducing stress hormones and increasing endorphins. It provides a brief period of exercise for the diaphragm, intestines and circulatory system. However, listening to others laugh does not provide the same benefits as actively engaging in laughter oneself.

  • Beyond laughter clubs, other forms of exercise can promote laughter and happiness, like dancing, singing, or activities involving movement, music, competition and social interaction. These tap into evolutionarily ancient pleasure circuits in the brain.

The summary covers the main points about laughter clubs and other forms of exercise that can promote laughter and happiness from the specified passages. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

Here is a summary of the key points from the provided list:

  • Universities discussed include University of Toronto, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University, Temple University, Texas A&M University, University of Washington, University of Texas

  • Important people mentioned include Murray Straus, William Graham Sumner, the U.S. Supreme Court

  • Topics covered include transportation segregation, thought control, torturous interrogation techniques, Vietnam War, therapeutic aggression movement

  • Experiments and studies referenced include the “Third Wave” experiment, tomato being called the “apple of love”, Ball-dropping experiment by Wundt, emotions affected by walking styles, Watson vs Wundt, Elizabeth Taylor

  • Media campaigns covered the “Talk. They’ll Listen” approach. Entertainment figures mentioned include the Tonight Show and Henny Youngman.

  • Medical topics included suproxin, sweating, temperature effects, tonsillectomies, Urbach-Wiehte disease

  • Psychological concepts discussed are the unconscious mind, bonding through unison, willpower development using the As If principle

  • Relationships and behaviors analyzed include Ultimatum game interactions, friendliness and temperature, impact of small changes

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