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Episode 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?

Do you have a label?

Whether that’s about your personality, your behaviour or even your job.
Do other people label you?

Unfortunately the way the brain works it means that labels are important.
We create shortcuts in the brain, called heuristics, to speed things up and labelling is one of the things it does to make our lives easier.
It helps us to pick out a threat in a hurry and so became a very useful instinct.

But, in a modern world what it can do instead is create stereotypes, which then create the conditions that lead to a self fulfilling prophecy that seeks to confirm the original labelling.

Back in the 1980’s 2 psychologists, John Darley and Paget Gross from Princeton University, created a study which is often known as “The Hannah Study”.

They showed a video of a girl, called ‘Hannah’ to two different groups, one group saw her in a wealthy area and the other group saw her in a poor neighbourhood.

Afterwards both groups watched another video that would assess her academic ability, they watched a video of her taking a test in school where she got some questions right and some wrong.

This video was identical in both groups but what they found is that the group that watched Hannah in an affluent neighbourhood described her as having above average academic ability whereas the group that watched her in a poor area described her as having below average academic ability, even though both saw exactly the same recording of her testing.
They’d labelled her from the start.

Other experiments have shown similar outcomes.
Social Psychologist Mark Snyder set up some 10 minute phone calls with 51 men and women, but before the call was placed they showed the men a picture supposedly of the woman he’d be talking to, but it wasn’t.

The picture was one of two that had been chosen from a previous study to be of a woman that was either very physically attractive or unattractive.
They were asked to simply chat for 10 minutes and afterwards the man was asked to give his impression of what the woman was like to talk to.

Not surprisingly, the women that were supposedly more attractive were described more positively.
The men had labelled the woman before the call was even made.

But here’s the really interesting bit.
The recordings of the phone calls were used in a further study in which people were asked to listen for some specific things.
They were asked to listen for examples of things like flirtatiousness, enthusiasm and friendliness.

What they found is that the women who, without even knowing, were being perceived by the men they were talking to as physically attractive actually spoke in a more flirtatious and likeable way.
The women who were being thought of as unattractive were less friendly and more cold or aloof.

It transpires that the way the man had labelled the woman changed the way that HE treated her in conversation and so she responded appropriately.
Showing that if you think of someone in a negative way it actually brings out their negative qualities.
And vice versa, think of someone in a positive way and you’ll treat them in such a way as to bring out the positive traits to their personality.

So be careful how you label people, especially yourself!

Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change