- Prime Yourself Each Day with the Right Words

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Prime Yourself Each Day with the Right Words

Psychologists at the New York University (John Bargh, Mark Chen & Lara Burrows) have obtained some very interesting results in one of their experiments.

They gave volunteers ten short jumbled up sentences to correct. The task was very easy. They then timed how long the volunteers took to walk down the long corridor outside of the room where they had unscrambled the sentences.

One group of sentences contained words that we associate with being old like wrinkled and grey but not referring to the subject of ageing. For instance the word wrinkled was used to describe a raisin.

In another group of sentences the words related to being energetic, youthful, etc, again this was done indirectly.

I think you can guess the results. The subjects primed with words related to ageing walked far slower down the corridor than those primed with words relating to youth, energy, etc.

They then repeated the experiment using, with one group, words relating to politeness, e.g. courteous, respect, considerate, patiently and so on. In the other group subjects rearranged sentences containing words of the opposite nature, e.g. assertive, powerful, aggressive, bold, rude, disturb, etc.

This time at the end of the test the volunteers were asked quite casually as they left the room to give a message to a particular person in another office along the corridor. However, when they got there someone was standing in the doorway talking to the occupant of the room and going over and over the same point.

None of the subjects primed for politeness interrupted to give the message in the 5 minutes the experiment lasted but those primed with the assertive type words all interrupted within the 5 minutes.

Think how this can affect our lives. A couple of months ago I gave out a copy of the poem "Look to this day" and suggested reading it each morning to prime ourselves for the day. Words in it include joy, glory, happiness, splendour, vision, hope and many other positive words.

If we have a specific problem, e.g. anger then we could prime ourselves with words that counteract that emotion, e.g. calmness, tranquillity, patience, etc. Why not think about how you can use this information to influence your own mood.

Colin Sutherland
The information in this article was obtained from ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell published by Allen Lane.

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