It’s a simple test. You sit down in a classroom and circle the word that doesn’t belong. For example:
Of course you circle igloo because it does fit with the others. You do a series of these “sentence tests.” After you are done you simply turn in your test, walk down the hallway, and enter the elevator to leave the building.
If you believed that this was testing your vocabulary, intelligence, and literacy you would be wrong. The experimenters had something different in mind...
You see, they were not interested in how well you did in the test. They were not interested in how smart you were.
They were interested in strongly influencing your behavior on an unconscious level.
They were interested in how fast you walked to the elevator. Depending on the test you took it “primed” your unconscious to walk slower or walk faster.
Some people were given a test that had words associated with aging throughout them. These people walked slower after the test.
This is a fascinating area of research known as priming. And there are a whole host of things in our environment that are “priming” how we think, how we feel, and how we make our decisions.
In another study they asked participants to hold a cup of coffee momentarily and then shortly after were told to read a description about an individual. Based on this description they were asked to describe the personality of the person.
What they found is the people who were handed cold coffee were much more likely to describe the person as being “cold”, selfish, into themselves.
The people who were handed the warm coffee were more likely to rate the person as being “warm”, friendly, and compassionate.
Think about that. Both groups were given the same description but the responses changed all from the temperature of coffee they were handed prior to being asked the question!
Here are some other studies looking at priming stimuli:
Green and blue environments increase people’s level of creativity while red ones decrease it.
Exposing people to the Apple logo increased creativity while the IBM logo decreased it.
A study on in particular prison found that before lunch the chance of prisoner granted parole was close to zero. After lunch it went up to 66%!
Want someone to believe an editorial? Don’t have them read it in a seafood store. The reason? The association and word “fishy” has a double meaning. It does not just refer to the animal but also to distrust.
Now it’s easy to begin wondering all the things in our environment that are priming us (and there are many!) But how can we use this?
For one we have to realize “we are what we eat.” Not just in terms of food but in terms of information as well.
What are you feeding your mind on a daily basis?
Do you start of your day is watching the news, exposing yourself to the crime and devastation around the world? Let me ask you a question, what kind of emotional state does that put you in?
Does it put you into a state of anger? Hopelessness? Upset?
From those states do you look at the world differently? Do you make different decisions in a state of hopeless than a state of something like clarity?
What if you were to start your day off reading inspiring literature? Or exercising? Thinking of everything you’re grateful for? Or just taking time for yourself?
What kind of emotional state would that put you in? Are you going to make different decisions from a state of clarity, inspiration, passion, or excitement?
You better believe it.
The result is energizing. The result is you begin to live proactively instead of reactively. The result is you begin asking questions like,
I challenge you to start your day in this way and notice the change, notice the shift in the emotions and power that you bring to the day.
This is a way to prime yourself each and every day to be at your best and to perform at your best.