I’m sure many of you know that each of our realities is skewed by our subconscious. However, I would venture to guess that many of us do not know just how easy it is to manipulate these subconscious cues. For instance, if we just finished working out, a hill will seem steeper, more difficult to climb. If we need to reach a certain point, it will seem further away if we have on a heavy back pack. You might say, yeah but if I just worked out the hill will be harder to climb and where I’m walking will be take me longer if I have a heavy backpack. True, but not for the reason you think.
Social scientists discovered an interesting human behavioral quirk called priming. Priming is when a stimulus creates a cue of subconscious behavioral patterns. Priming can occur after perceptual, semantic or conceptual stimulus. Essentially, one can be persuaded to perform in a particular way by engaging specific subconscious patterns. For instance, when testing priming theory, social scientists would ask students to perform a word search/scramble. The experimenters would ask the students to look at a list of words presented to them and create as many sentences as they could. Obviously, the students left this experiment thinking that their word recognition or sentence structures skills were being tested. However, the real experiment was taking place in the hallway after this task. What the students did not know was the experimenters were giving them specific priming words. One group would get words like old, slow or resting. The other group would get words like active, young and fast. The experimenters were never interested in how many sentences they made. They were in fact interested in how fast they walked from point A to point B in the hallway after they had been primed with these specific words.
If you guessed that those who had the words like old, slow and resting walked slower down the hall, you guessed right! The other group, which had words like active, young and fast, walked the same hall significantly faster than the control group and the other primed group. So why does this matter? Simple, you must prime for success! Priming is a simple and powerful way to ensure that your best self will show up when you need it most. Surrounding yourself with positive thoughts, words and actions is exactly what you need when you want the most out of yourself. Doing some simple priming will kick off a positive subconscious pattern. Negative priming will have the opposite effect. So the next time you finish your workout and you see the next hill, ask yourself one question. Is this hill really that steep, or is it smaller than the one I just climbed?
-by Justin Rose, Senior Program Director