“Pessimism never won in battle.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower

Optimism and positive thinking are generally seen as good while pessimism is considered bad. However, psychologist Gabriele Oettingen studied obese women who were starting a new diet and found the ones who spent more time daydreaming about being thinner actually lost 24 pounds less during the following year. In her book Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science […]

“Your emotions are meant to fluctuate, just like your blood pressure is meant to fluctuate.” -Daniel Gilbert

It is not only natural to get stressed in high-stakes situations, it can actually be good. Yesterday we looked at how stress can decrease mortality risk; today we will see that it can increase performance under pressure as well. Studies have found that students who are more stressed during exams and while studying for exams tend […]

“If I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

You don’t really KNOW anybody. You know how they act around you, but studies show how we act is strongly influenced by how others expect us to act. Kurt Mortensen gives some interesting examples in his book Maximum Influence: The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion. In one study, assembly-line workers who were told their job was […]

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny.'” – Isaac Asimov

When Sir Alexander Fleming noticed mold destroying his bacteria cultures in 1928 he remarked “that’s funny.” He didn’t get it. By staying embracing this uncertainty he discovered the world’s first antibiotic, Penicillin. Maintaining an open attitude to uncertainty is not just helpful for Nobel Prize-winning scientists; it benefits the rest of us too. In one study, participants were […]

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

In one study, six-month-old babies watched a researcher choose between coffee mugs many times, repeatedly selecting the blue one. When the researchers finally chose a non-blue mug the babies were visibly surprised. However, in a different condition the researcher did the reverse: choosing non-blue mugs every time. In this case the babies were not surprised at all to see him finally select the blue mug on the last round. […]

“We become wiser when we acknowledge our ignorance.” -Socrates

Do you understand bicycles? During one study participants were asked to draw a diagram of a bike. The results were disastrous. Many drawings were physically impossible. After struggling with the drawings participants realized they did not understand bikes as well as they thought. Yale psychologist Frank Keil has nicknamed this phenomenon the illusion of explanatory depth. It refers to […]