- Develop the Gratitude Attitude. Having people list three things that they are grateful for in life or three events that have gone especially well over the past week can significantly increase their level of happiness for about a month. This, in turn, can cause them to be more optimistic about the future and can improve their physical health.
- Be a Giver. People become much happier after even the smallest acts of kindness. Those who give a few dollars to the needy, buy a small surprise gift for a loved one, donate blood, or help a friend are inclined to experience a fast-acting and significant boost in happiness.
- *Hang a Mirror in Your Kitchen. Placing a mirror in front of people when they are presented with different food options results in a remarkable 32 percent reduction in their consumption of unhealthy food. Seeing their own reflection makes them more aware of their body and more likely to eat food that is good for them.
- Buy a Potted Plant for the Office. Adding plants to an office results in a 15 percent boost in the number of creative ideas reported by male employees and helps their female counterparts to produce more original solutions to problems. The plants help reduce stress and induce good moods, which, in turn, promote creativity.
- Touch People Lightly on The Upper Arm. Lightly touching someone on their upper arm makes them far more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. In one dating study, the touch produced a 20 percent increase in the number of people who accepted an invitation to dance in a nightclub and a 10 percent increase in those who would give their telephone number to a stranger on the street.
- Write About Your Relationship. Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost the chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such “expressive writing” results in partners’ using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.
- Deal with Potential Liars by Closing Your Eyes and Asking for an E-mail. The most reliable cues to lying are in the words that people use, with liars tending to lack detail, use more “ums” and “ahs,” and avoid self-references (“me,” “mine,” “I”). In addition, people are about 20 percent less likely to lie in an e-mail than in a telephone call, because their words are on record and so are more likely to come back and haunt them.
- Praise Children’s Effort over Their Ability. Praising a child’s effort rather than their ability (“Well done. You must have tried very hard”) encourages them to try regardless of the consequences, therefore sidestepping fear of failure. This, in turn, makes them especially likely to attempt challenging problems, find these problems enjoyable, and try to solve them on their own time.
- Visualize Yourself Doing, Not Achieving. People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming a reality. One especially effective technique involves adopting a third-person perspective: those who visualize themselves as others see them are about 20 percent more successful than those who adopt a first-person point of view.
- Consider Your Legacy. Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals and assess the degree to which they are progressing toward making those goals a reality.
Highlights (Find “*” For Most Insightful)
Even the smallest loss of perceived control can have a dramatic effect on people’s confidence, happiness, and life span.
Happiness makes people more sociable and altruistic, it increases how much they like themselves and others, it improves their ability to resolve conflict, and it strengthens their immune systems. The cumulative effect means that people have more satisfying and successful relationships, find more fulfilling careers, and live longer, healthier lives.
Does the road to happiness really depend on people’s being able to simply push negative thoughts out of their mind? Actually, research suggests that such thought suppression may be far more likely to increase, rather than decrease, misery.
Although these types of exercises were both speedy and simple, the results revealed that participants experienced a remarkable boost in their psychological and physical well-being, including a reduction in health problems and an increase in self-esteem and happiness. The results left psychologists with something of a mystery. Why would talking about a traumatic experience have almost no effect but writing about it yield such significant benefits? From a psychological perspective, thinking and writing are very different. *Thinking can often be somewhat unstructured, disorganized, and even chaotic. In contrast, writing encourages the creation of a story line and structure that help people make sense of what has happened and work toward a solution. In short, talking can add to a sense of confusion, but writing provides a more systematic, solution-based approach.
The results were startling. Compared to those in either the “annoyed” or the “events” group, those expressing gratitude ended up happier, much more optimistic about the future, and physically healthier—and they even exercised more.
Monday: Thanksgiving There are many things in your life for which to be grateful. These might include having close friends, being in a wonderful relationship, benefiting from sacrifices that others have made for you, being part of a supportive family, and enjoying good health, a nice home, or enough food on the table. Alternatively, you might have a job that you love, have happy memories of the past, or recently have had a nice experience, such as savoring an especially lovely cup of coffee, enjoying the smile of a stranger, having your dog welcome you home, eating a great meal, or stopping to smell the flowers. Think back over the past week and list three of these things. 1 2 3
Tuesday: Terrific Times Think about one of the most wonderful experiences in your life. Perhaps a moment when you felt suddenly contented, were in love, listened to an amazing piece of music, saw an incredible performance, or had a great time with friends. Choose just one experience and imagine yourself back in that moment in time. Remember how you felt and what was going on around you. Now spend a few moments writing a description of that experience and how you felt. Do not worry about your spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Instead, simply commit your thoughts to paper.
Wednesday: Future Fantastic Spend a few moments writing about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone really well. Be realistic, but imagine that you have worked hard and achieved all of your aims and ambitions. Imagine that you have become the person that you really want to be, and that your personal and professional life feels like a dream come true. All of this may not help you achieve your goals, but it will help you feel good and put a smile on your face.
Thursday: Dear … Think about someone in your life who is very important to you. It might be your partner, a close friend, or a family member. Imagine that you have only one opportunity to tell this person how important they are to you. Write a short letter to this person, describing how much you care for them and the impact that they have had on your life.
Friday: Reviewing the Situation Think back over the past seven days and make a note of three things that went really well for you. The events might be fairly trivial, such as finding a parking space, or more important, such as being offered a new job or opportunity. Jot down a sentence about why you think each event turned out so well. 1 2 3
The results from both studies clearly indicated that in terms of short- and long-term happiness, buying experiences made people feel better than buying products.
*Time and again, the same pattern emerged. Those who spent a higher percentage of their income on others were far happier than those who spent it on themselves.
Buy Experiences, Not Goods. Want to buy happiness? Then spend your hard-earned cash on experiences.
The good news is that you really do not have to divert a huge proportion of your income to charity, friends, family, and colleagues. In fact, the smallest gifts can quickly result in surprisingly large and long-lasting changes in happiness. A few dollars spent on others may be one of the best investments that you ever make.
All of these results add up to compelling evidence that low self-esteem causes materialistic tendencies and that such tendencies take root at a very young age.
Smile. There are a number of happiness-inducing behaviors that can be quickly incorporated into your everyday life. Most important of all, smile more. This shouldn’t be a brief, unfelt smile that ends in the blink of an eye. Instead, research suggests that you should try to maintain the expression for between fifteen and thirty seconds.
*Sit Up. Your posture is equally important. In a study conducted by Tomi-Ann Roberts at Colorado College, participants were randomly split into two groups and asked to spend three minutes either sitting up straight or slumping in their chairs.31 Everyone was then given a math test and asked to assess their mood. Those who had sat upright were much happier than those who had slouched, and they even made higher scores on the math test.
Act Happy. Research by Peter Borkenau from Bielefeld University and others has revealed that happy people move in a very different way than unhappy people do.32 You can use this information to increase your sense of happiness by acting like a happy person. Try walking in a more relaxed way, swinging your arms slightly more and putting more of a spring in your step. Also, try making more expressive hand gestures during conversations, nod your head more when others are speaking, wear more colorful clothing, use positively charged emotional words more (especially “love,” “like,” and “fond”), use fewer self-references (“me,” “myself,” and “I”), have a larger variation in the pitch of your voice, speak slightly faster, and have a significantly firmer handshake. Incorporating these behaviors into your everyday actions will enhance your happiness.
Unsurprisingly, humans derive a great deal of enjoyment from any new form of positive experience. However, give them the same wonderful experience time and again and they quickly become familiar with their new source of joy and so cease to derive anywhere near as much pleasure from it. Unfortunately, circumstantial changes frequently produce hedonistic habituation.
In contrast, intentional changes tend to avoid hedonistic habituation by creating a constantly changing psychological landscape. Whether it is starting a new hobby, joining an organization, initiating a project, meeting new people, or learning a novel skill, the brain is fed with ever-changing positive experiences that prevent habituation and so prolong happiness.
The effect has been replicated many times, and the conclusion is clear: if you set children to an activity that they enjoy and reward them for doing it, the reward reduces the enjoyment and demotivates them. Within a few seconds you transform play into work.
To encourage people to do more of something they enjoy, try presenting them with the occasional small surprise reward after they have completed the activity or praising the fruits of their labor.
There is an old joke about a man being interviewed for a new job and being told, “You know, in this job we really need someone who is responsible.” The man thinks for a moment, then replies, “I am perfect for you. In my last job lots of things went badly wrong, and they always said that I was responsible.”
It was just one important factor—did the candidate appear to be a pleasant person? Those who had managed to ingratiate themselves were very likely to be offered a position, and they charmed their way to success in several different ways.
A few had spent time chatting about topics that were not related to the job but that interested the candidate and the interviewer. Some had made a special effort to smile and maintain eye contact. Others had praised the organization. This barrage of positivity had paid dividends, convincing the interviewers that such pleasant and socially skilled applicants would fit well in the workplace and so should be offered a job.
This manipulation had a large impact on how much the participants liked the man. When the cheating was mentioned toward the start of the tape, the man appeared far more likeable than when it was mentioned toward the end. Additional work has confirmed exactly the same effect in other contexts, with, for example, lawyers being judged to have a stronger case when presenting a weakness in their argument at the beginning of a trial.6 *It seems that presenting weaknesses early is seen as a sign of openness.
Increase your chances of giving a great interview in three easy steps. First Remember that likeability is more important than academic achievements and work experience, so … find something that you truly like about the organization, and let your opinion be known feel free to give a genuine compliment to the interviewer chat about a non-job-related topic that you and the interviewer find interesting show interest in the interviewer. Ask what type of person is being sought and how the position fits into the overall organization be enthusiastic about the position and the organization smile and maintain eye contact with the interviewer
Second When you do have weaknesses, don’t wait until late in the interview to reveal them. Instead, give your credibility a boost by getting them into the conversation toward the start of the interview. And remember, for positive aspects, modesty is vital, so retain something strong until the very last minute.
Third If you make what seems like a major mistake, don’t overreact. The chances are that it is far more noticeable to you than to others, and your excessive response or apologizing could just draw more attention to it. Instead, acknowledge the mistake, if appropriate, and then continue as if nothing has happened.
If you want to increase your chances of making a good impression in a meeting, sit toward the middle of the table.
K.I.S.S. When thinking about the name of a new project, campaign, or product, keep it simple. Adam Alter and Daniel Oppenheimer, of Princeton University, tracked the fortunes of companies on the stock market and found that those with simple and memorable names, such as Flinks, Inc., tended to outperform companies with awkward names such as Sagxter, Inc.
These results suggest that you can increase how bright people think you are by merely writing legibly and simplifying your language.
Self-help guru Dale Carnegie has rightly pointed out that one way of increasing your popularity is to express a genuine interest in others. In fact, Carnegie argues, people will win more friends in two months by developing a genuine interest in those around them than in two years of trying to make others interested in them. Other writers have suggested alternative quick and easy routes, which include giving sincere compliments, matching people’s body language and style of speech, appearing to be modest, and being generous with your time, resources, and skills.
In other words, to increase the likelihood that someone will like you, get that person to do you a favor. A century later, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy appeared to agree, writing, “We do not love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we do them.”
*Despite the only difference between the tapes being the fictitious knocking over of coffee, the student who had committed the blunder was considered far more likeable, just like Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs invasion. Interestingly, the effect emerges only when someone runs the risk of being seen as too perfect.
This effect, known as “spontaneous trait transference,” reveals the pluses and minuses of gossiping. When you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics’ being “transferred” to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues, and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly complain about their failings, and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you.
Self-help gurus have argued that it is possible to increase your likeability by becoming more empathetic, modest, and generous. They are probably right. But there are also three other surprising factors that can promote popularity.
*The Franklin Effect People like you more when they do a favor for you. The effect has its limits, however, and is more likely to work with small favors rather than more significant requests that make people either respond begrudgingly or, even worse, refuse. The Pratfall Effect The occasional slipup can enhance your likeability. However, remember that the effect really works only when you are in danger of being seen as too perfect. Gossip Know that whatever traits you assign to others are likely to come home to roost, being viewed as part of your own personality.
Irrational as it is, people are swayed far more by the individual than by the masses.
The message is that people are more likely to agree with you when they have already said something positive.
The effect may be attributable to the fact that good food puts people in a happy mood and can cause them to make faster, and more impulsive, decisions.19
The rhymes were viewed as significantly more accurate than the non-rhyming statements. The authors suggested that this was the outcome because they were more memorable, likeable, and repeatable. The effect is frequently used in advertising (“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup”)
Regardless of whether the similarity is in dress, speech, background, age, religion, politics, drinking and smoking habits, food preferences, opinions, personality, or body language, we like people who are like us, and we find them far more persuasive than others.
It seemed that the brief humorous aside momentarily put the participant in a good mood and encouraged them to be more giving. So, next time you’re trying to get what you want, remember to mention your pet frog.
So, if you are unfortunate enough to require assistance in the street, what can you do to increase your chances of obtaining help? According to persuasion expert Robert Cialdini, the answer is to pick out a friendly face in the crowd and clearly tell them what is happening and what they need to do.
An understanding of the diffusion of responsibility may also help you to persuade people in other situations. For example, when trying to get people to help you via e-mail, do not send your message to an entire group. When people see that an e-mail has been sent to lots of others, the same diffusion effect can arise, with everyone thinking that it is everyone else’s responsibility to respond.30 To increase the chances of getting people to help, send the message to each person individually.
Several other studies have also illustrated how apparently spontaneous favors can elicit a powerful need to reciprocate.
*In the fourth and final group, the waiters were asked to present the check to customers along with one piece of candy each, then, just as they were turning away from the table, reach into their pocket and quickly hand everyone a second piece. In terms of candy per customer, everyone ended up with exactly the same number of candies as those in the third group. But psychologically speaking, this was very, very different. The waiter had just done the customers an unnecessary and nice favor, and because of that, tips increased by an impressive 23 percent.
Favors have their strongest effect when they occur between people who don’t know each other very well, and when they are small but thoughtful.
favors have their greatest power immediately after they have been granted.38 It seems that if you leave it too long, people either forget what happened or convince themselves that they didn’t really need the help in the first place.
Whatever the explanation, the practical message is clear: if you want to up the chances of a lost wallet being returned, tuck in a photograph of the cutest, happiest baby you can find and make sure that it is prominently displayed.
fantasizing about your perfect world may make you feel better, but it is unlikely to help you transform your dreams into reality.
In our experiment, participants who endorsed the even-numbered items in the questionnaire were unlikely to achieve their goals. So, for example, those who adopted a celebrity role model, perhaps putting a picture of Cindy Crawford or Bill Gates on their refrigerator door, did not usually drop that all-important clothing size or achieve their business ambitions. Similarly, those relying on willpower, using thought suppression to erase images of cream cakes and chocolate sundaes from their mind, focusing on the bad things that would happen if they didn’t achieve their goals, or spending their time daydreaming were also wasting their time. All of these techniques constitute yet more striking examples of the types of motivational myths that prevent people from taking control of their lives.
To achieve your aims and ambitions, there are four key techniques that will help you succeed: having the right kind of plan, telling your friends and family, focusing on the benefits, and rewarding yourself each step of the way.
1. What is your overall goal? My overall goal is to … 2. Creating a step-by-step plan Break your overall goal into a maximum of five smaller steps. Each step should be associated with a goal that is concrete, measurable, realistic, and time-based. Think about how you will achieve each step and the reward that you will give yourself when you do.
STEP 1 My first sub-goal is to… I believe that I can achieve this goal because … To achieve this sub-goal, I will … This will be achieved by the following date: My reward for achieving this will be
3. What are the benefits of achieving your overall goal? List three important benefits, focusing on how much better life will be for you and those around you. Focus on enjoying the benefits associated with your desired future rather than escaping the negative aspects of your current situation.
4. Going public Whom are you going to tell about your goal and sub-goals? Perhaps your friends, family, or colleagues. Could you describe it on a blog or display it somewhere prominent in your house or at the office?
IN 59 SECONDS The following procedure, based on the doublethink procedure, can be used to motivate you to achieve your goals and persevere in the face of difficulties. 1. What is your goal? 2. Potential benefits and setbacks QUESTION A Write down one word that would reflect an important way in which your life would be better if you achieved your goal. QUESTION B Write down one word that would reflect a significant barrier that stands in the way of achieving your goal. QUESTION C Write down one word that would reflect another important way in which your life would be better if you achieved your goal. QUESTION D Write down one word that would reflect another significant barrier that stands in the way of achieving your goal.
3. Elaboration Elaborate your answer to Question A. Imagine all of the benefits that would flow from this achievement and note your ideas in the space below. Elaborate your answer to Question B. Imagine how the obstacle hinders achievement and the steps that you would take to deal with it and note your ideas in the space below. Elaborate your answer to Question C. Imagine all of the benefits that would flow from this achievement and note your ideas in the space below. Elaborate your answer to Question D. Imagine how the obstacle hinders achievement and the steps that you would take to deal with it and note your ideas in the space below.
Eating at the slower rate resulted in men, but not women, eating less. However, starting the meal at a normal rate of eating and then dropping to the slower rate caused both men and women to experience a large reduction in their appetite. The normal-slow combination was even more effective than eating slowly all the way through the meal, suggesting that the secret to feeling satisfied is to start at your normal speed but then savor each and every mouthful.
To cut intake, make sure that tempting foods are out of sight, stored in a place that is difficult to access, such as a high cabinet or the basement.
People eat significantly more when they are distracted at mealtimes and therefore are not paying attention to their food.
Try cutting down on your eating by using smaller bowls, plates, and cutlery.
During the study, participants who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept none. You don’t need to turn into a veritable Samuel Pepys to gain the benefits; just scribbling down what you eat on a Post-it note or sending yourself an e-mail has the same effect. According to the theory, becoming aware of what you are eating on a daily basis will help you break old habits and consume less.
Researchers also often use various types of visual and verbal lateral-thinking problems. Try the following questions to test this aspect of your creativity: Can you add a single line to the following equation to make it correct? (There is just one rule—you are not allowed to place the line through the equal sign like this: ≠, thus converting it into a “not equal” sign.) 10 10 11 = 10:50 Joanna and Jackie were born on the same day of the same month of the same year. They have the same mother and father, yet they are not twins. How is that possible? A man has married twenty different women in the same town. All are still alive, and he never divorced any of them. Polygamy is unlawful, yet the man has not broken the law. How is this possible?
*IN 59 SECONDS When you next want to come up with a creative solution to a problem, try the following technique and see what pops into your mind. If the word-search puzzle is not for you, try tackling a difficult crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or any other task that fully occupies your conscious mind. A. What problem are you trying to solve? B. Find the ten target words inside the grid. The words might run horizontally, vertically, or diagonally and be either forward or backward. There may also be an overlap between the words. TARGET WORDS SIXTY SECONDS CREATIVITY BOOST QUICK RAPID THINK CHANGE NEW FRESH C. Now, without thinking too much about it, jot down the various thoughts and possible solutions that come to you.
A few years ago I wrote a book about creativity called Did You Spot the Gorilla? It outlined four techniques designed to help people think and behave in more flexible and unusual ways. Here are summaries of each of the techniques and some exercises designed to help you implement them. Priming. Prime your mind by working feverishly on a problem, but then give yourself a release of effort by doing something completely different. During the release period, feed your mind with new and diverse ideas by, for example, visiting a museum or an art gallery, paging through magazines or newspapers, going on a train or car journey, or randomly searching the Internet. But don’t push it. Simply immerse yourself in novel ideas and experiences, and leave it up to your brain to find connections and create seemingly serendipitous events. Perspective. Changing perspective helps produce novel solutions. Try imagining how a child, idiot, friend, artist, or accountant would approach the problem. Alternatively, think about two analogous situations by applying the “is like” rule (e.g., “Attracting more people to my business is like a street entertainer trying to attract a crowd”). How is the problem solved in these situations? Can this idea be applied to your problem? Finally, think about doing the exact opposite of every solution you have created so far. Play. When you are being too serious, your brain becomes constrained. Jump-start your creativity by having some fun. Take a break for fifteen minutes, watch a funny film, or digitally alter a photograph of your colleague so that he or she looks more like an owl. Perceive. When the world becomes too familiar, your brain reverts to automatic pilot and stops seeing what is right in front of your eyes. Try switching your mind to manual by becoming more curious about the world. Ask yourself an interesting question each week. How do elephants communicate over hundreds of miles? Why do people laugh? Why are bananas yellow? How cmoe yuor bairn is albe to udnertsnad tihs snetence eevn tghouh olny the frist and lsat ltetres of ecah wrod are crreoct? Invest some time and energy in trying to discover possible answers to the question, if only for the fun of it.
De Mestral’s story is frequently cited as evidence for one of the most important principles underlying creativity: the realization that an idea or technique from one situation can be applied to another.
A significant amount of research has examined the effects of the natural environment on people’s thinking and behavior. The work shows that even a small amount of plant life can have a surprisingly large impact on making the world a better place. The recovery rates of patients in hospitals are significantly improved when they are able to see trees from their ward windows,8 and prisoners whose cell windows overlook farmlands and forests report fewer medical problems than others.9 The effects are not just confined to prisoners and patients but extend to everyone. Other studies have examined the relationship between greenery and crime.
Remarkably, even though everyone saw the code numbers for just a few seconds, those who were exposed to the green ink solved about 30 percent more anagrams than those who saw the red ink. The evidence suggests that for creativity you are better off going green.
IN 59 SECONDS To inspire creative thoughts, place plants and flowers in a room and, if possible, ensure that windows look out on trees and grass, not concrete and steel. Don’t try to fake it. Pictures of waterfalls do not aid innovation, and even high-definition screens showing live camera feeds from natural scenes do not make people feel more relaxed.13 So if you really cannot introduce nature into a space, head for the nearest green spot. Also, when decorating rooms to inspire creative and innovative thinking, avoid red and go for green. The same concept applies if you are trying to get creative juices flowing for others—prime them with the color green (green folders, green chairs, or even your green clothing).
So, with respect to group creativity, the message is clear: play musical chairs. Even though a team may have worked well together in the past, you can maximize the potential for new and exciting thoughts by changing members as often as possible.
Ask people to spend a few moments thinking about a famous figure, such as Leonardo da Vinci, and more likely than not their creative juices suddenly run dry.22 It seems that if the bar is set too high, people unconsciously compare their own meager skills to those of a genius, become disheartened, and stop trying.
There is a strong link between anxiety and creativity. When people feel worried, they become very focused, concentrate on the task at hand, become risk-averse, rely on well-established habits and routines, and see the world through less-creative eyes. In contrast, when people feel at ease in a situation, they are more likely to explore new and unusual ways of thinking and behaving, see the bigger picture, take risks, and think and act more creatively.
IN 59 SECONDS Priming To prime your mind for thinking creatively, spend a few moments describing a typical musician or artist. List their typical behaviors, lifestyle, and appearance. Or, following on from Förster’s work in creativity and patterns, use the following designs to help produce original ideas. They can be turned into examples of modern art and used to adorn the walls of boardrooms and meeting spaces. Alternatively, they can be loaded on computers as wallpaper or even used as subtle background designs on the pads that people use to scribble their ideas. Whatever you choose, creating creativity has never been so quick or easy.
Bodywork The next time you are trying to be creative in a meeting, gently lean forward and pull against the table. When the going gets tough, cross your arms to help perseverance in the face of failure. If that doesn’t work, lie down. If anyone accuses you of being lazy, quietly explain that you are employing your locus coeruleus in the war against rigid thinking.
Similar work has shown that the same subtle touch also significantly increases the likelihood that people will sign petitions, leave a tip for waitstaff, participate in a supermarket taste test (which then, in turn, increases the chances that they will buy the product), drink more in a bar, and become involved in charity work.
The results from both experiments were impressive. In the nightclub, women accepted the offer of a dance 43 percent of the time when not being touched on the arm and 65 percent after even the briefest of touches. In the street, the research team obtained telephone numbers from 10 percent of women with no physical contact and almost 20 percent when touching. In both cases a brief touch dramatically increased success.
*The answer, in part, is touch. There is considerable evidence that a gentle touch is perceived as a sign of high status.9 For example, ask people to look at photographs of one person touching another, and they consistently rate the “toucher” as far more dominant than the “touchee.” This is especially true of that all-important male-to-female touch on the upper arm. Most women don’t consciously register the touch, but unconsciously it makes them think more highly of their potential beau.
IN 59 SECONDS If you want to get someone to help you out, try the briefest of touches on the upper arm. The same behavior also increases the likelihood that one person will find another person attractive, providing that the touch is short, confined to the upper arm, and delivered at the same time as a compliment or request. Do be careful, however, because it is easy to get this terribly wrong. Touching is a strong social signal, and even a few inches can make all the difference between the recipient inviting you in for coffee or calling the police.
IN 59 SECONDS More than thirty years of psychological research has revealed that most people adopt one of several very different “loving” styles in their romantic relationships. This style does not tend to change throughout a person’s life, and it plays a key role in determining their relationships. Some researchers believe that these styles are determined by people’s relationship with their primary caregiver during childhood,10 and others argue that it is all about brain functioning.11 Regardless, the following questionnaire will give you an insight into how you score on the three main loving styles.12 Take a few moments to read the nine statements that follow, and assign each of them a rating to indicate the degree to which they describe you. Some of the statements refer to a specific relationship, while others refer to your general beliefs. Whenever possible, answer the questions with your current partner in mind or, if you are not in a relationship, answer with your most recent partner in mind. If you have not been in a relationship, answer in a way that is consistent with how you believe you would think and behave. Don’t spend too long thinking about each statement—and answer honestly. Assign each item a rating between 1 (“strongly disagree”) and 5 (“strongly agree”).
1 I was attracted to my partner within moments of meeting him/her. 1 2 3 4 5
2 When it comes to relationships, I find a certain type of person attractive, and my partner fits that ideal. 1 2 3 4 5
3 My partner and I simply feel like we were meant for each other. 1 2 3 4 5
4 I value loving relationships that grow out of strong friendships. 1 2 3 4 5
5 I cannot say exactly when I fell in love. It seemed to happen over a relatively long period of time. 1 2 3 4 5
6 Love is not a mysterious sensation but rather an extreme form of caring and friendship. 1 2 3 4 5
7 My partner would not be happy if he/she knew some of the things that I get up to. 1 2 3 4 5
8 I like the idea of playing the field with several different partners. 1 2 3 4 5
9 I tend to bounce back from failed love affairs quite easily. 1 2 3 4 5
Scoring This type of questionnaire measures the three main kinds of loving styles. Based on concepts first proposed by the famous Greek philosopher Plato, these are commonly referred to by psychologists as Eros (Greek for “desire”), Ludus (“game playing”), and Storge (“affection”). To calculate your score for each style, add your scores together for the following statements. Statements 1, 2, and 3 = Eros Statements 4, 5, and 6 = Storge Statements 7, 8, and 9 = Ludus The highest of the three scores indicates your main loving style.
Eros: These lovers have very strong ideas about the type of physical and psychological characteristics that they desire in a partner. When they encounter a match, they frequently experience love at first sight and, all being well, engage in an emotionally intense relationship. Such relationships tend to survive for a few years but often falter as the love of their life changes over time and no longer matches their strict criteria. When this happens, the passionate Eros lover again sets off in search of the perfect soul mate. Extroverted and giving, passionate lovers feel secure in their relationships and are willing to be emotionally close to others. They tend to become infatuated during the initial stages of any relationship, and while in the grip of passionate love would not dream of infidelity.
Storge: These lovers value trust over lust. Instead of having a perfect partner in mind, they slowly develop a network of friends in the hope that affection will transform into deep commitment and love. Once committed, they are intensely loyal and supportive, and tend to form only one or two long-term romantic relationship(s) throughout their life. Highly altruistic and trusting, they have often been brought up in a large family and feel comfortable with the idea of depending on others for support.
Ludus: These lovers have no ideal type in mind but are instead happy…
These types of lines are successful because at a speed-dating event people frequently feel that they are trapped in Groundhog Day, having the same conversation again and again. Getting people to open up and talk about themselves in a creative, funny, and unusual way promotes a sense of closeness and attraction.
Repeating the order proved to have a remarkable effect on the tips that customers left when they finished their meal. Those who had heard their own words repeated left tips that were 70 percent larger than those left by the “polite and positive” group.
The message here is that to convince people that the chemistry is right, you should mirror their movements. Lean forward when they lean forward, cross your legs when they cross theirs, hold your hands in the same position as they do. Without their realizing it, these small but important movements will help make the object of your affections feel that you share that certain—as the French say—”Je ne sais quoi.”
IN 59 SECONDS In speed dating you have only moments to impress. So to make best use of the short time available, think of lines that get the other person to talk about themselves in a creative, fun, and unusual way. Mimic (within reason) the way they sit, how they use their hands, their speech patterns, their facial expressions. Avoid spread betting. Rather than check the “yes, I would like to see you again” box for lots of people in the hope of obtaining the maximum number of dates, focus on the one or two people who appear to generate genuine chemistry. Finally, some advice specifically for men from Simon Chu’s research: if you are good-looking and highly successful, remember that for many your looks and status might make you fall into the “too good to be true” category. Assuming that adding a prosthetic scar or two is out of the question, be prepared to downplay your successes. Of course, for everyone else, the theory represents a great way of coping with rejection—if one person after another turns you down, convince yourself that you are too damn attractive and successful for your own good. SEX
However, each and every time it was trumped by bravery. It seems that when it comes to love, women value courage and a willingness to take risks over kindness and altruism. So instead of men making a special effort to woo women by describing their tireless work for charity, they should perhaps consider mentioning their love of skydiving, the importance of standing up for what you think is right, and following your heart no matter where it leads.
IN 59 SECONDS Beat Fast, My Still Heart To help promote the chances of a successful date, choose an activity that is likely to get the heart racing. Avoid slow-moving classical music concerts, countryside walks, and wind chimes. Instead, look toward suspense-filled films, theme parks, and cycle rides. The theory is that your date will attribute a racing heart to you rather than to the activity, and so convince themselves that you have that special something.
The Sharing Game When it comes to playing the sharing game, it is a case of taking one step at a time. However, providing that each stage seems appropriate, research suggests that disclosing personal information about yourself and encouraging your date to do the same can significantly speed up those all-important feelings of intimacy. Here are ten questions based on items from Aron’s sharing game to help the process:
1. Imagine hosting the perfect dinner party. You can invite anyone who has ever lived. Whom would you ask?
2. When did you last talk to yourself?
3. Name two ways in which you consider yourself lucky.
4. Name something that you have always wanted to do and explain why you haven’t done it yet.
5. Imagine that your house or apartment catches fire. You can save only one object. What would it be?
6. Describe one of the happiest days of your life. . Imagine that you are going to become a close friend with your date.
7. What is the most important thing for him or her to know about you?
8. Tell your date two things that you really like about him or her.
9. Describe one of the most embarrassing moments in your life.
10. Describe a personal problem, and ask your date’s advice on how best to handle it.
*SIX QUICK TIPS FOR DATING Reflected Glory. Research shows that women rate a man as more attractive after they’ve seen another woman smiling at him or having a good time in his company.23 So if you want to impress women in a bar or at a party, ask a good female friend to come along and openly laugh at your jokes, then have her quietly slip away. And swear her to secrecy.
Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach. Evolutionary psychologists believe that hungry men should show a preference for bigger women because their size suggests access to food. To test this idea, researchers asked male students entering or leaving a university dining hall to rate the attractiveness of full-length photographs of women of different sizes.24 Hungry students rated the heavier women as more desirable. So if you are female, traditionally built, and interested in a guy, suggest going for that all-important drink before a meal, not after. Or try meeting a couple of hours before eating and then insist he have only a light salad.
Disagree, Then Agree. You might think that constant praise and head nodding is the way to a person’s heart. However, research suggests that this may not be true. People tend to be more attracted to those who start off lukewarm and then become more positive toward the end of the date.25 So instead of rushing in at a hundred smiles an hour from the very start of the evening, try playing slightly hard to get for the first hour or so and then turn on the charm later.
Also, rather than chatting about things that you both like, talk about things that you both dislike. Describing their work in the snappily titled paper “Interpersonal Chemistry Through Negativity: Bonding by Sharing Negative Attitudes About Others,” Jennifer Bosson and her colleagues at the University of South Florida discovered that people feel closer to each other when they agree about dislikes rather than likes.
26 Fake a Genuine Smile. More than a century ago, scientists discovered that although authentic smiles and fake smiles both involve the sides of the mouth being pulled up, only a genuine smile causes crinkling around the eyes. More recent research has started to explore the subtle science of smiling, including trying to identify the signals that make a smile appear especially flirtatious. Initial work suggests that smiles that take longer to spread over a person’s face (more…
IN 59 SECONDS According to research conducted by John Gottman, the extent to which you know the minutiae of your partner’s life is a good predictor of how long your relationship will last. The following fun quiz will help evaluate how well you and your partner know each other. You should answer the questions by trying to guess the answer that your partner will give. Your partner then tells you the actual answer, and you award yourself one point for each correct response. You then swap roles and repeat the process. Finally, add your two scores together, which will result in a total between 0 and 20. QUESTION CORRECT?
1. In general, which of the following types of film would your partner most enjoy? Horror Comedy Action Drama
2. What was your partner’s first job?
3. In general, which of the following types of sport would your partner most enjoy watching on TV? Football Baseball Basketball Auto Racing
4. Where was your partner born?
5. Which of the following classic books would your partner most prefer to read? Moby-Dick A Tale of Two Cities Pride and Prejudice Frankenstein
6. What is your partner’s shirt-collar size (male) or dress size (female)?
7. In general, which of the following types of vacation would your partner most prefer? Beach Skiing Camping City
8. What is the first name of your partner’s closest friend (excluding yourself)?
9. Which of the following world leaders would your partner most like to meet? Adolf Hitler J. F. Kennedy Mahatma Gandhi Winston Churchill
10. What color are your partner’s eyes?
IN 59 SECONDS Aron’s work suggests that long-term couples will feel more attracted to each other when they regularly engage in novel and exciting joint activities that involve working together to achieve a goal. This finding is supported by the results of several surveys showing that long-term couples who are happy in their relationships are more likely to take part in leisure activities that involve both partners and are relatively unpredictable, exciting, and active rather than passive. So regardless of whether it is playing a sport, amateur dramatics, rock climbing, visiting new places, learning a new dance, or traveling to novel vacation destinations, couples who face life’s foam obstacles together stick together.
For example, only 11 percent of men, compared with 25 percent of women, awarded the maximum score to the item “Tell her that she is the most wonderful woman that you have ever met.” Likewise, 8 percent of men, but 22 percent of women, assigned 10 out of 10 points to “run her a relaxing bath after she has had a bad day at work.” The same pattern emerged with almost the entire list, suggesting that men’s reluctance to carry out a romantic gesture or two may not stem from laziness or a lack of caring but from underestimating how romantic behavior is perceived by women.
The top-ten list of gestures is shown below, along with the percentage of women who assigned each gesture maximum marks on the “how romantic is this” scale. Cover her eyes and lead her to a lovely surprise—40 percent Whisk her away somewhere exciting for the weekend—40 percent Write a song or poem about her—28 percent Tell her that she is the most wonderful woman that you have ever met—25 percent Run her a relaxing bath after she has had a bad day at work—22 percent Send her a romantic text or e-mail, or leave a note around the house—22 percent Wake her up with breakfast in bed—22 percent Offer her a coat when she is cold—18 percent Send her a large bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates at her workplace—16 percent Make her a mix CD of her favorite music—12 percent Interestingly, it seems that gestures that reflect a form of escapism and surprise top the list, followed by those that reflect thoughtfulness, with blatant acts of materialism trailing in last place—scientific evidence, perhaps, that when it comes to romance, it really is the thought that counts.
IN 59 SECONDS The following three-day task is similar to those used in experimental studies showing that spending time writing about a relationship has several physical and psychological benefits and can help improve the longevity of the relationship. DAY 1 Spend ten minutes writing about your deepest feelings about your current romantic relationship. Feel free to explore your emotions and thoughts. DAY 2 Think about someone that you know who is in a relationship that is in some way inferior to your own. Write three important reasons why your relationship is better than theirs. DAY 3 Write one important positive quality that your partner has, and explain why this quality means so much to you. Now write something that you consider to be a fault with your partner (perhaps something about his or her personality, habits, or behavior), and then list one way in which this fault could be considered redeeming or endearing.
IN 59 SECONDS Surrounding yourself with objects that remind you of your partner is good for your relationship. It could be something that you wear, such as a ring, pendant, or necklace. Or perhaps keep a gift from your partner on display in the home or office. Or maybe place a photograph of the two of you in a prominent location, or in a wallet or purse. Either way, remember that these objects are more than mere tokens of love; they also serve an important psychological function. Not only do they usually evoke happy memories and positive thoughts, but they also activate a deep-seated evolutionary mechanism that helps make temptation far less tempting.
IN 59 SECONDS When you experience an event that has the potential to make you feel angry, try the following exercise to ease the pain and help you move on. Spend a few moments thinking about the positive aspects of the event that you found hurtful. For example, did the event help you … grow stronger or become aware of personal strengths that you didn’t realize you had? appreciate certain aspects of your life more than before? become a wiser person? enhance important relationships or end bad ones? become more skilled at communicating your feelings? bolster your confidence? develop into a more compassionate or forgiving person? repair and strengthen your relationship with a person who hurt you? identify any of your own shortcomings that may stand in the way of your happiness? Write down how you have benefited from the experience and how your life is better as a result of what happened. Do not withhold anything and be as honest as possible.
Help Yourself by Praying for Others. Research conducted by Neal Krause at the University of Michigan suggests that praying for others might be good for your health.6 After interviewing more than a thousand people about the nature of their prayers, finances, and health, Krause discovered that praying for others helped reduce the financial stresses and strains of the person doing the praying and improved their own well-being. Interestingly, praying for material things, such as a new car or a better house, offered no such protection.
Afterward, some of the participants were left alone to recover in silence, while others were played either classical music (Pachelbel’s Canon and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Spring, movement 1), jazz (including “Flamenco Sketches” by Miles Davis), or pop music (Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” and the Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash into Me”). Blood pressure readings revealed that listening to pop or jazz music had the same restorative effect as total silence. In contrast, those who listened to Pachelbel and Vivaldi relaxed much more quickly, and so their blood pressure dropped back to the normal level in far less time.
Here Comes the Sun. Work conducted by Matthew Keller at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, and outside colleagues, looked at the relationship between the sun and emotion.8 The team discovered that hot weather, indicated by higher temperatures and barometric pressure, caused people to be in a better mood and improved their memory, but only if they had spent more than thirty minutes outside. People who had spent less than the magic half hour in the sun were actually in a poorer mood than usual. Perhaps, as the authors suggested, people resent being cooped up when the weather is pleasant.
*Get in Touch with Your Inner Clown. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you increase your chances of a heart attack. Well, at least that is the general conclusion from research examining the psychology of humor and stress. People who spontaneously use humor to cope with stress have especially healthy immune systems, are 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, experience less pain during dental surgery, and live four and a half years longer than average.9 In 2005 Michael Miller and his colleagues at the University of Maryland showed people scenes from films that were likely to make them feel anxious (such as the opening thirty minutes of Saving Private Ryan) or make them laugh (such as the “orgasm” scene from When Harry Met Sally). Participants’ blood flow dropped by about 35 percent after watching the stress-inducing films, but rose by 22 percent following the more humorous material. On the basis of the results, the researchers recommended that people laugh for at least fifteen minutes each day.
This remarkable result encouraged scientists to explore other possible benefits of canine companionship, resulting in studies showing that dog owners coped well with everyday stress, were relaxed about life, had high self-esteem, and were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.11
To help separate correlation from causation, Karen Allen at the State University of New York at Buffalo conducted a much-needed study.15 She assembled a group of city stockbrokers who suffered from hypertension, randomly divided them into two groups, and gave each person in one group a dog to look after. Both groups had their blood pressure monitored over a six-month period. The results revealed that the stockbrokers with dogs were significantly more relaxed than those in the control group. In fact, when it came to alleviating the effects of mental stress, the dogs proved more effective than one of the most commonly used drugs to treat hypertension.
*IN 59 SECONDS There are two key messages from this research. First, owning a dog helps to relieve the stresses and strains of everyday life, in part because it promotes social contact. Second, to maximize the chances of such meetings, choose a Labrador rather than a Rottweiler, teddy bear, yucca plant, television set, or bubble mixture. However, if your lifestyle is incompatible with owning a dog, there are still two things that you can do to gain the benefits of a four-legged friend. i-dog You could consider getting a robotic dog, rather than a real one. Recent research by Marian Banks and her colleagues at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine examined the effects of robot dogs and real dogs on patient loneliness in long-term-care facilities.19 The research team took a living dog or a Sony AIBO to each facility on a weekly basis, spending about thirty minutes with patients on each visit. During the course of eight weeks, patients formed the same strength of emotional bond with both types of dog, and both helped to alleviate feelings of loneliness to the same extent. Tune in to Animal TV. In an innovative study, Deborah Wells examined whether merely looking at a video of an animal can have the same type of calming and restorative effects as those created by being in its company.20 She created three short videotapes (ten fish swimming in a plantfilled aquarium, ten parakeets in an aviary, or ten monkeys sitting in trees) and took participants’ blood pressure before and after they watched the videos. In one control condition, Wells organized another group of people to watch a videotape of a well-known soap opera, and still another to watch a blank television screen. Two main findings emerged. First, physiologically speaking, watching the soap opera was almost identical to staring at a blank television screen. Second, compared to the two control conditions, all three animal videos made the participants feel much more relaxed. To help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure in less than a minute, go online and watch a video of a cute animal.
IN 59 SECONDS Crum and Langer’s research is controversial but, if valid, suggests that being conscious of the fuel-burning activities that you engage in every day is good for you. The following chart gives an approximate number of calories burned by someone of average weight carrying out a range of normal activities (people with higher or lower weight will burn proportionately more or fewer calories). Use the chart to calculate the approximate number of calories you burn each day. Keep the chart handy to remind yourself of the “invisible” exercise that you get each day of your life, and according to the theory, you should see your stress level drop by doing nothing.
Polarization is not the only phenomenon of “groupthink” that can influence the hearts and minds of individuals when they get together.4 Other studies have shown that compared to individuals, groups tend to be more dogmatic, better able to justify irrational actions, more likely to see their actions as highly moral, and more apt to form stereotypical views of outsiders. In addition, when strong-willed people lead group discussions, they can pressure others into conforming, can encourage self-censorship, and can create an illusion of unanimity.
These experiments demonstrate the power of the “foot in the door” technique. People are far more likely to agree to a big request if they have already agreed to a small one. More than forty years of research has shown that the technique works in many different situations.10 Get people to make modest donations to charity, and larger ones will follow. Get employees to agree to little changes in working conditions, and bigger ones are accepted more readily. Get them to change normal lightbulbs for low-energy ones and the likelihood of far more significant energy-efficient lifestyle changes increases.
*From negotiating about house prices to working hours, salary to overdraft limits, it pays to start high.
IN 59 SECONDS We are not the rational creatures that we like to think we are. We can easily be influenced by a variety of quick and effective techniques. Beware of people using the “that’s not all” principle, offering unprompted discounts and bargains to get you to part with your money. Likewise, be wary of those who start small and build up or start big and quickly back down to a more “reasonable” offer. Of course, it is also possible to use exactly the same techniques to influence others yourself. That’s fine, but as Obi-Wan Kenobi famously noted, your newfound Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded, so do be careful to use it only for good.
When having to decide between options that differ in only one or two ways, your conscious mind is very good at studying the situation in a rational, levelheaded way and deciding the best course of action. However, when the going gets complex, the mind has only a limited ability to juggle a small number of facts and figures at any one time, and so the result is not so good. *Instead of looking at the situation as a whole, the conscious mind tends to focus on the most obvious elements and, in doing so, can miss the bigger picture. In contrast, your unconscious mind is much better at dealing with the complex decisions that pervade many aspects of our lives. Given time, it slowly works through all of the factors and eventually reaches a more balanced decision.
*IN 59 SECONDS Anagrams and the Unconscious Mind When making straightforward decisions, stick with the conscious mind by thinking about the pros and cons and assessing the situation in a rational, levelheaded way. However, for more complex choices, try giving your conscious mind a rest and letting your unconscious work. The following exercise, based on the research of Dijksterhuis and Van Olden, is designed to aid the decision-making process. A. What decisions do you have to make? B. Work through as many of these anagrams as possible in five minutes. If you get stuck, don’t struggle for too long. Instead, move on to the next one. ANAGRAM CLUE YOUR ANSWER 1. Open change European city 2. A motto Well-known fruit 3. Past eight Popular in Italy 4. Noon leap European general 5. Ring late Three sides 6. Tail north Swimming, cycling, and running 7. Did train Island vacation spot 8. Eat Time for … 9. Loaded inn Flower 10. Cool cheat Better than diamonds for many women 11. Neat grain South American country 12. Lob aloft Game of four quarters 13. Groan Popular in churches 14. Mini rat Alcoholic drink 15. Cheap Soft fruit C. Now, without thinking too much about the problem, write down your decision here.
Containing Regret Research shows that when most people look back on their lives, they tend to regret things that they didn’t do. Once you understand this, there are quick and effective techniques that you can use to avoid feelings of regret. First, to prevent regret in the first place, adopt a “will do” attitude toward opportunity. As writer Max Lucado once suggested, “Go to the effort. Invest the time. Write the letter. Make the apology. Take the trip. Purchase the gift. Do it. The seized opportunity renders joy. The neglected brings regret.” Second, if you do regret not doing something, see if there is anything you can do to remedy the situation. Write the letter, make that telephone call, spend more time with the family, mend broken relationships, go back to college and get the grades. Use the regret as a wake-up call, a way of motivating yourself Finally, if it really isn’t possible to do anything to make things better, make a mental picture of a fence around the imaginary “what might have been” benefits that might otherwise occupy your thoughts. Instead of dwelling on the positive things that might have happened, spend time thinking about three benefits of your current situation and three negative consequences that could have occurred had you made the decision that’s causing the regret.
Research suggests that people often approach many aspects of their lives using one of two fundamental strategies—maximizing or satisficing. “Maximizers” tend to obtain high scores on the questionnaire, and “satisficers” tend to obtain low scores. Extreme maximizers constantly check all available options to make sure that they have picked the best one. In contrast, extreme satisficers look only until they have found something that fulfills their needs. As a result, maximizers objectively achieve more but take longer to find what they want and may be less happy because of a tendency to dwell on how things could have been.
If you are a maximizer and find yourself wasting too much time searching for the perfect product, you might find it helpful to limit the resources that you put into some activities (e.g., give yourself only thirty minutes to find your friend a birthday card) or make certain decisions irreversible (for example, by throwing away receipts).18 There is an old adage that happiness is about wanting what you have, not having what you want. It seems that when maximizers get what they want, they may not always want what they get.
So what really gives away a liar? Although lying does not always make people stressed, it usually taxes their minds. Lying involves having to think about what other people already know or could find out, what is plausible, and what fits in with what you have said before. Because of this, liars tend to do the things that correspond to thinking hard about a problem or issue. They tend not to move their arms and legs so much, cut down on gesturing, repeat the same phrases, give shorter and less detailed answers, take longer before they start to answer, and pause and hesitate more. In addition, there is also evidence that they distance themselves from the lie, causing their language to become more impersonal. As a result, liars often reduce the number of times that they say words such as “I,” “me,” and “mine,” and use “him” and “her” rather than people’s names. Finally, there is increased evasiveness, as liars tend to avoid answering the question completely, perhaps by switching topics or by asking a question of their own. *To detect deception, forget about looking for signs of tension, nervousness, and anxiety. Instead, a liar is likely to look as though they are thinking hard for no good reason, conversing in a strangely impersonal tone, and incorporating an evasiveness that would make even a politician or a used-car salesman blush.
*IN 59 SECONDS Body Language For successful lie detection, jettison the behavioral myths surrounding the Anxiety Hypothesis and look for signs more commonly associated with having to think hard. Forget the idea that liars have sweaty palms, fidget, and avoid eye contact. Instead, look for a person suddenly becoming more static and cutting down on their gestures. Also, learn to listen. Be on guard for a sudden decrease in detail, an increase in pauses and hesitations, and an avoidance of the words “me,” “mine,” and “I” but an increase in “her” and “him.” If someone suddenly becomes very evasive, press for a straight answer.24 To spot possible shifts, try to establish what researchers have referred to as an “honest baseline.” Before asking questions that are likely to elicit deceptive answers, start with those that are far more likely to make the person respond in an honest way. During these initial answers, develop an understanding of how they behave when they are telling the truth by looking at their body language and listening to the words they say. Then, during the answers to the trickier questions, watch for the behavioral shifts outlined above. Also, remember that even if you do see these signals, they are not an absolute guarantee of a lie. Unlike taxes and death, nothing is that certain when it comes to lying. Instead, such clues are simply an indication that all is perhaps not as it should be—a good reason to dig deeper.
E-mail Me Communication expert Jeff Hancock and his colleagues at Cornell University asked students to spend a week making notes of all of their significant face-to-face conversations, telephone chats, texts, and e-mails, and then work through the list, indicating which ones contained lies.25 The results revealed that people lied in 14 percent of e-mails, 21 percent of texts, 27 percent of face-to-face conversations, and 37 percent of telephone calls. According to Hancock, people are reluctant to lie in e-mails because their words are recorded and what they say can come back to haunt them. So if you want to minimize the risk of a lie, ask others to e-mail you.
Those who did the mental unpacking exercise produced estimates that proved far more accurate than those of other participants. So to find out how long it really will take you to do something, isolate all of the steps involved and then make your time estimate.
For example, in one of my previous books, Quirkology, I described work suggesting that when it comes to where people choose to live, there is an overrepresentation of people called Florence living in Florida, George in Georgia, Kenneth in Kentucky, and Virgil in Virginia.8 Also, in terms of marriage partners, research has revealed that more couples share the same letter of their family name than is predicted by chance. It is even possible that people’s political views are, to some extent, shaped by their names.
*After analyzing a huge computerized database containing millions of Californian death certificates, they discovered that men with positive initials (such as A.C.E., H.U.G., and J.O.Y.) lived about four and a half years longer than average, whereas those with negative initials (such as P.I.G., B.U.M., and D.I.E.) died about three years early. Women with positive initials lived an extra three years, although there was no detrimental effect for those with negative initials.
New research, conducted in 2007 by Leif Nelson and Joseph Simmons, indicates that these effects are not just limited to the relatively small number of people whose initials happen to make especially positive or negative words.13 Instead, according to their work, even the hint of initial-based positivity or negativity is enough to exert a major influence on people’s lives.
Remarkable as it may seem, the results revealed that students with first or last names starting with an A or a B had obtained significantly higher grade point averages than those beginning with the letters C or D.
IN 59 SECONDS Research shows that people with surnames that begin with a letter toward the beginning of the alphabet are more successful in life than those whose names begin with letters toward the end. Obviously, the potential for choosing a successful surname is limited, unless you are prepared to change your name or, if you are female, to marry a man whose surname falls toward the start of the alphabet. However, with respect to choosing a child’s first name, other research can provide a helping hand. Names with positive connotations, royal associations, or those that sound especially attractive are all good bets. Finally, do not underestimate the power of initials. Avoid creating a set of initials that make a word with negative associations, and help to ensure exam success by going for names starting with the letter A or B.
IN 59 SECONDS It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to make children feel good by praising their abilities and talents. However, research shows that such compliments can have a detrimental effect and that it is far better to focus on the children’s effort, concentration, and organizational skills. So, for example, when your daughter gets a good exam grade, recognize how hard she must have studied, how well she organized her homework time, and how good she must have been at performing under pressure. Similarly, when your son wins a place on the school football team, praise his ability to train hard and work well with others. This kind of praise encourages effort, resilience, and persistence in the face of failure. To help children focus further, consider asking reflective questions about the techniques and strategies that they used (“What parts of that did you enjoy the most?” or “How did you deal with any problems that came up?”), and try to make the praise as specific as possible (“You played well at football today,” rather than “You are good at football”).16
IN 59 SECONDS The Marshmallow Test It is easy to do the marshmallow test with your own children and friends. Find a food that they like and offer them the option of a small portion now or a larger portion if they sit and wait for about ten minutes. If you are going to do this quick and fun assessment, make sure that your guinea pigs can see the small and large portions of food throughout the test. Mischel’s research suggests that the experiment is most effective when people are continuously tempted by the sight of their favorite food! Heads and Toes During this game, children have to touch their toes when they hear the phrase “Touch your head,” and touch their head when they hear the phrase “Touch your toes.” To play, explain the rules to your child and give them a couple of practice sessions. Then randomly say the phrase “Touch your head” or “Touch your toes” and award 2 points if the child makes the correct response without hesitation, 1 point when they start to make the incorrect response and then correct themselves, and 0 points for an incorrect response. Try a list of ten commands and see how they score. On average, three-year-old children tend to obtain 3 points, four-year-olds score about 10, and five-year-olds get about 14 correct. If your child does not score within this range, don’t panic! It is perfectly normal for children to get a range of scores, but a low score may indicate that he or she could benefit from some of the games described below.
Focusing on Focus Studies suggest that playing certain types of games can help children learn to pay attention, follow directions, and develop self-control.22 In the “freeze game,” tell your child to dance to music and then freeze when the music stops. In the first part of the game, your child has to dance slowly to slow songs and quickly to fast songs. However, once they have mastered this stage, ask them to do the opposite, dancing quickly to the slow songs and slowly to the fast songs. In a similar exercise, called “conducting the orchestra,” give your child any musical instrument and conduct their music using a makeshift baton. In the first part of the game, ask them to play when you wave the baton but stop when you put it down. Next, ask them to play quickly when you move the baton quickly and slowly when you move the baton slowly. Finally, ask your child to do the opposite, playing quickly when you put the baton down and slowly when you wave it around. There are several other techniques that can help children understand, value, and develop the power of self-discipline. Have them write their name with their nondominant hand, repeat the months of the year or days of the week in reverse order, or name as many objects in a certain category (e.g., vegetables, pets, countries) as they can in thirty seconds. Also, when you see your child concentrating very hard on something, encourage them to reflect on their behavior by, for example, asking them how long they thought they’d been concentrating (point out that time flies when you are focused) or how it felt when someone interrupted them (point out the value of being able to get back into a task after someone interrupts you). Avoiding Threats Threats work well in the short term but can actually prove counterproductive over longer periods of time. By pointing out all of the terrible things that will happen if your child follows a course of action, you may be making that activity more attractive in their minds. Instead, try the “softly, softly” approach used in the toy robot experiment. State that you do not want them to do something and leave it there. If they really do insist on knowing why you are stopping them, try to get them to identify some possible reasons themselves.
*Together these factors, collectively referred to as the “Big Five,” represent the holy grail of personality research. The five dimensions have been given different labels over the years, but are commonly referred to as openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (easily remembered by using the acronym OCEAN).
A Quick Analysis, and a Few Handy Hints, Based on Your Scores
Openness. High scorers tend to be imaginative and creative but also prone to boredom, and so strive to continually feed their mind with new ideas and experiences. Low scorers are more down-to-earth, and so tend to seek out situations in which they have to turn an existing idea into reality, take small steps rather than initiate radical change, and follow well-established patterns and rules.
Conscientiousness. High scorers are methodical, well organized, and dutiful, and perform best in highly structured and predictable environments where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Low scorers are far more laid-back and find it easy to enjoy life, but may well need a helping hand when it comes to self-discipline.
Extroversion. High scorers are energized by the company of others, are evening types, and are motivated more by carrots than sticks. In contrast, low scorers tend to be happiest working alone and in quiet surroundings, are most alert in the morning, and are motivated more by fear of punishment than promise of rewards.
Agreeableness. High scorers tend to be trusting, friendly, and cooperative, but have to be careful to avoid situations in which others might take advantage of their overly giving nature. Low scorers tend to be more aggressive and competitive, and bloom in situations that require tough thinking and straight talking.
Neuroticism. High scorers are prone to insecurity and emotional distress, and avoid situations that they find upsetting because those negative feelings take some time to fade away. Low scorers tend to be more relaxed, less emotional and less prone to distress, and they operate well in situations that others find stressful.
According to this theory, people with low 2D:4D ratios will be more likely than others to exhibit masculine characteristics, while those with high 2D:4D ratios will be significantly more likely to be in touch with their feminine side.
According to the theory, a relatively long third finger is indicative of a more “masculine” brain and body and is associated with, for example, high levels of performance in sports, greater assertiveness, increased emotional stability, and enhanced musical ability. To carry out a slightly more accurate version of the exercise, hold your right palm up in front of you and look at where your first finger joins the palm of your hand. There will be several creases at that point. Place the zero mark of the ruler on the middle of the bottom crease and measure to the tip of your finger (not your nail) in millimeters. Now repeat exactly the same procedure for your right third finger. To find the 2D:4D ratio, divide the length of your first finger by the length of your third finger. Research shows that the average male ratio is about .98, and a ratio of about .94 would be regarded as especially masculine, while a ratio of 1.00 would be viewed as more feminine. For women, the average ratio is about 1.00, and a score of about .98 would be regarded as more masculine while a ratio of 102 would be viewed as more feminine.
*In addition, they indicated how long they had owned their pet. Fish owners turned out to be the happiest, dog owners the most fun to be with, cat owners the most dependable and emotionally sensitive, and reptile owners the most independent.
For years, owners have insisted that their pets have a unique personality—not only does my research suggest they might be right, but it also reveals that people’s pets are a reflection of themselves. So if you meet someone who has a dog and you want to gain genuine insight into their personality within seconds, ask them to describe the personality of their canine pal.
The results revealed that drivers with more stickers admitted to driving more aggressively, including a greater frequency of tailgating and ramming. So if you find yourself driving behind a car covered in stickers, it’s probably best to give it that extra inch or two.
All Thumbs. The brain can be seen as working in two general modes. In one mode (often called right-brained), it is more intuitive, visual, and creative. In the other (often called left-brained), it is more logical, sequential, and language-based. In many ways, it is like having an artist and an accountant arguing in your head, and you are flipping between the two. All of us work in both modes, but everyone naturally tends toward one or the other. Right-handers can try this quick test to discover if they tend to be more right- than left-brained or vice versa. Interlock the fingers of your hands and place one thumb on top of the other. People who place their right thumb on top of their left thumb tend to be left-brain dominant, and are thus more verbal and analytical.17 Those who place their left thumb on top of their right thumb tend to be right-brain dominant, and excel in visual, creative, and intuitive tasks.
Questionnaire results from more than 350 people showed that morning types are attracted to concrete information rather than abstract thinking and like to rely on logic rather than intuition. They tend to be introverted, self-controlled, and eager to make a good impression on others. In contrast, evening types have a far more creative outlook on life, are more prepared to take risks, are more independent and nonconforming, and are a little impulsive.
Summary / Conclusion
Develop the Gratitude Attitude. Having people list three things that they are grateful for in life or three events that have gone especially well over the past week can significantly increase their level of happiness for about a month. This, in turn, can cause them to be more optimistic about the future and can improve their physical health.
Be a Giver. People become much happier after even the smallest acts of kindness. Those who give a few dollars to the needy, buy a small surprise gift for a loved one, donate blood, or help a friend are inclined to experience a fast-acting and significant boost in happiness.
*Hang a Mirror in Your Kitchen. Placing a mirror in front of people when they are presented with different food options results in a remarkable 32 percent reduction in their consumption of unhealthy food. Seeing their own reflection makes them more aware of their body and more likely to eat food that is good for them.
Buy a Potted Plant for the Office. Adding plants to an office results in a 15 percent boost in the number of creative ideas reported by male employees and helps their female counterparts to produce more original solutions to problems. The plants help reduce stress and induce good moods, which, in turn, promote creativity.
Touch People Lightly on The Upper Arm. Lightly touching someone on their upper arm makes them far more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. In one dating study, the touch produced a 20 percent increase in the number of people who accepted an invitation to dance in a nightclub and a 10 percent increase in those who would give their telephone number to a stranger on the street.
Write About Your Relationship. Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost the chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such “expressive writing” results in partners’ using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.
Deal with Potential Liars by Closing Your Eyes and Asking for an E-mail. The most reliable cues to lying are in the words that people use, with liars tending to lack detail, use more “ums” and “ahs,” and avoid self-references (“me,” “mine,” “I”). In addition, people are about 20 percent less likely to lie in an e-mail than in a telephone call, because their words are on record and so are more likely to come back and haunt them.
Praise Children’s Effort over Their Ability. Praising a child’s effort rather than their ability (“Well done. You must have tried very hard”) encourages them to try regardless of the consequences, therefore sidestepping fear of failure. This, in turn, makes them especially likely to attempt challenging problems, find these problems enjoyable, and try to solve them on their own time.
Visualize Yourself Doing, Not Achieving. People who visualize themselves taking the practical steps needed to achieve their goals are far more likely to succeed than those who simply fantasize about their dreams becoming a reality. One especially effective technique involves adopting a third-person perspective: those who visualize themselves as others see them are about 20 percent more successful than those who adopt a first-person point of view.
Consider Your Legacy. Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals and assess the degree to which they are progressing toward making those goals a reality.