Beware of the power of suggestions!

June 7th, 2012 - 1:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, June 7 (IANS) Deliberate suggestions can influence how people perform in learning and memory tasks, which products they prefer and how they respond to supplements and medicines, a study says.

Once we anticipate a specific outcome will occur, our subsequent thoughts and behaviours will actually help to bring that outcome to fruition.

So, if a normally shy person expects that some wine will help him loosen up at a cocktail party, he will probably feel less inhibited, approach more people, and get involved in more conversations over the course of the party.

Even though he may give credit to the wine, it is clear that his expectations of how the wine would make him feel played a major role, the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science reported.

Psychological scientists Maryanne Garry and Robert Michael of Victoria University of Wellington, with Irving Kirsch of Harvard Medical School, delve into the phenomenon of suggestion, exploring the intriguing relationship between suggestion, cognition, and behaviour.

When the two got to talking, “we realized that the effects of suggestion are wider and often more surprising than many people might otherwise think,” said Garry, according to a university statement.

But it’s not just deliberate suggestion that influences our thoughts and behaviours - suggestions that are not deliberate can have the very same effects. As the authors point out, “simply observing people or otherwise making them feel special can be suggestive,” a phenomenon termed the Hawthorne effect.

As a result, people might work harder, or stick to a task for longer. And this case is more worrying, says Garry, “because although we might then give credit to some new drug or treatment, we don’t realize that we are the ones who are actually wielding the influence.”

“For example, a scientist who knows what the hypothesis of an experiment is might unwittingly lead subjects to produce the hypothesized effect-for reasons that have nothing to do with the experiment itself.”

And the unintended effects of suggestion aren’t just restricted to the lab-they cut across many real world domains, including the fields of medicine, education, and criminal justice.

Understanding these issues has important real world implications. “If we can harness the power of suggestion, we can improve people’s lives,” said Gerry.

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