Home
I wonder if the words you use to speak about yourself actually cause you to become a different person. Research shows that the language you speak can change your abilities in some ways.

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/boroditsky09/boroditsky09_index.html


This might be a partial explanation for why affirmations appear to work for some people. Perhaps using language to tell yourself that you are a different person (happier, more successful, etc.) causes you to become more like the words.

We know that the brain is bidirectional. If it's happy, it can make you smile. But if you force yourself to smile when you are not happy, it can make you happier.

http://web.psych.ualberta.ca/~varn/bc/Kleinke.htm

When I was in college, which was my first social experience outside the tiny town where I grew up, I noticed that a lot of people were asking me the same question: How are you? So I decided that my answer to that question, regardless of the truth, would be always be something along the lines of great, spectacular, excellent or sensational. It's the one situation in which there is no social penalty for saying out loud that you are incredible.

How are you?

I'm fantastic.

My reasoning was that over time I might program myself through repetition to become better than I was. I have no idea if it works, but I know I enjoy telling people I'm fabulous.

It would be easy to test this sort of thing. Just take a random group of kids and teach them to say good things to themselves, or even aloud, about their intelligence, on a regular basis. Then compare their test scores with a control group.


If this method improved test scores, do you think schools would be allowed to teach it? I'm guessing no, because it would seem like witchcraft to the fundamentalists.

 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +10
  • Print
  • Share

Comments

Sort By:
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
Doesn't everyone answer the "How-ya-doin?" question the same way, albeit different variations? The experiment would be to try something different like, "I'm not doing so good" or "I am sicker than a dog" or "neither good or bad" and see what the impact is to my life. The rest of this post is ka-ka!

So, how the heck are you today?
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
For the record, there are fundamentalists of all faiths, not just Christianity. Living in a multicultural city, and having a fascination for religion in all its forms, I have met...so. very. many. And they are all similar, regardless of their faith.

Collinte, apology accepted, and nothing personal meant, but virtually all religious expression is, at its core, about good morals and values. What sets fundamentalism apart is a desire to turn away from all debate on the scripture and dogma, and to accept en masse what was at one point in history the accepted ideas.

Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance (www.dictionary.com). Just an FYI.

As to the post, the first article is quite interesting; being someone who likes to play around with languages, I can attest to thinking differently when using different languages. When trying to problem solve, I will sometimes try to do so in different languages (as I can, I'm not terribly good in anything other than English) since I find I seem to come up with different ideas when trying to find a word to reflect my impulses. Kind of like using a thesaurus. However, it's more than that, I find I start thinking along different lines almost immediately when I start thinking in a different language. Until now, however, I attributed that to my personal bias, (experiences with those languages, how easy/hard I found them, why I started learning them, my interactions with people who speak it, etc.) rather than anything inherent in the language.

Whether or not this in turn impacts one's ability to succeed in life (outside of solving whatever small problem is on my mind) is still rather debatable. For me, it's not so much about thinking positively, etc., it's just another way of thinking. Perhaps someone else would have a different experience.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
Richard Wiseman is currently conducting a happiness experiment here... very similar thoughts to yours Scott.


http://www.scienceofhappiness.co.uk/
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
Juvegirl: That's not all fundamentalists teach. They generally include a healthy dose of: what I believe is 100% true and whatever else you might think is wrong. Coupled with: no, I don't have to have any defensible positions, I will just shout you down when you ask questions. This inevitably leads to conflict which they claim is oppression.

If that is what they did to you, they are not doing it right. For what it is worth, I'll apologize for them.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
That has an interesting implication: The average American feels better than the average, say, German.

You know, when you start to live in the US for some time, at least as a German, you get really annoyed by that "How are you today?" thingy, since nobody expects you to answer honestly. It's just this "Thanks, I'm fantastic!", even if you are as close to dead as any other 150 years old guy.

Well, I got used to it, and: maybe it's just the smarter way of living.

(And, btw, I missed it when I came back to Germany, at least for a couple of days)
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
"Coupled with: no, I don't have to have any defensible positions, I will just shout you down when you ask questions"
-juvegirl

wow, fundamentalist sound just like liberals. FYI - i've been called both.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
Its good to focus on the carrot, but don't forget the stick. You could find twice as many studies showing the effectiveness of pain avoidance for behavior modification.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
It's easy to spin it to the fundementalists. Just speak their language:

- "These so-called 'affirmations' are actually prayers to God, asking him to make us this way.
- You know how, As ye sow, so shall ye reap'? - well, these are the seeds we're sowing.

It's the pedagogs that will be harder to convince. Their language is "teaching"; meaning "I know something, and you don't". If kids can get better without any of this "teaching" stuff, then that means they're not really important. Everyone needs to feel important.

 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
Everyone needs some ego. Otherwise, the fundementalists push you around. :)

I do think self talk can help you feel better about yourself. It's helped me.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
There's a reason why you take a date to a scary movie. The movie will cause all the normal reaction to fear: higher heart rate, sweaty hands, etc. But, since you're on a date, your partner's brain will interpret this as being aroused since the bodily reaction is the same (sans the b0ner).

I forgot what the psychological term is (maybe it's in the link), but it is interesting that your body can take what is normally considered an output of your current state (a smile) and feed that back as an input and actually change your state of mind.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
Scott,
I had an internship at the state capitol this year. One of the representatives always said "Glorious". In fact, that was one of the things he was most well known for, always saying "Have a glorious morning" or whatnot. I started saying it to make fun of him, but realized that after a while, I'd start doing it anyway, and it really does help. Instead of telling people I'm doing fine, I say "I'm doing great" or "fantastic" or anything else like that. I'm a firm believer in it, and when I go back to school in a month, I plan on waking up every day and telling myself that I'll do great, have a great day, and see where that leads me.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
I have long observed that employees whose bosses expected them to succeed did way better than when supervised by bosses who feared they would screw up.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
I recently read an article on a study (which, of course, I cannot find now after 90 seconds of googling) that concludes positive thinking can actually be detrimental. Despite what you're saying out loud, you are constantly reminding yourself that you are not, in fact, successful or fantastic.

I think the key to all of this is the "for some people" clause. What works for you may not work for me.
That being said, I certainly wouldn't discourage my young child from thinking and acting outwardly positive.

 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
There was a study on how stereotype influence academic performance. Asian girls who were reminded of being Asian score higher on math. When they were reminded of being girls, they scored lower.

It might be witchcraft, but it can be put to good use.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 4, 2009
Wouldn't this have to do with the disposition of the person? For me, forcing myself to pretend to be happy is arduous and unpleasant, and doesn't make me happy at all. If I'm already grouchy, it only makes me more miserable.

If I'm genuinely having a good time (laughing at jokes, for instance), and smile, then, yes, I find my mood elevated. But this is a normal, natural reaction, not a forced one.

I'll buy it when they experiment on grieving widows/widowers at funerals, and see if smiling does anything for them. Otherwise, it just sounds like they found a bunch of weak-willed people who can convince themselves they're happier than they really are.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
Collinte: That's not all fundamentalists teach. They generally include a healthy dose of: what I believe is 100% true and whatever else you might think is wrong. Coupled with: no, I don't have to have any defensible positions, I will just shout you down when you ask questions. This inevitably leads to conflict which they claim is oppression.

Scott: In elementary school we had a program where social workers came in for a day and met with each class individually to talk about positive feelings and thinking well of oneself. We each put our thumbprint on a piece of paper which was made into a button with the title, "I'm a Thumbody!" on it, which each student was given at the end of the day. This was the only time someone tried to instill positive feelings into the lives of students in my school; perhaps the fundamentalists got to them.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
My chiropractor has the same theory about answering the "how are you" question. He will always answer with a word that is better than "good." "Fantastic", "outstanding", "super", etc. Both annoying and uplifting.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
What do you have against fundamentalists? As MyNDIrish comments above, that is essentially what fundamentalists teach. All bigotry aside, they are all about good morals and values.
 
 
Aug 4, 2009
"If this method improved test scores, do you think schools would be allowed to teach it? I'm guessing no, because it would seem like witchcraft to the fundamentalists."

Call it prayer...basically the same thing anyway...
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog