I’ve come across this book recently by David Robson ( ISBN-101250827639) as it’s being aired on Radio 4. I’m not going to critique the book here (though I’ve ordered a copy!) but wanted to explore just what is the phenomenon of the Expectation Effect?
What is it?
Essentially, the Expectation Effect is another example of how powerful our brain can be (for good or otherwise). Also how much it influences our experience in life – without us even know it! David Robson explores the impact of the placebo in his book. Also exploring how much it can impact on how we deal with situations.
You might have come across this before in writings such as ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, or writings on the law of attraction or even if you’ve read ‘Pollyanna’ by Eleanor H Porter (I’ve written about this before). There are many other ways of describing this effect. There is now much science to back up what has previously been a bit of secret/mystery to all but those privileged to have been ‘in the know’. I love the science behind it and David Robson describes this beautifully.
How can we benefit?
First of all, we need to be clear that this isn’t a way of wishing yourself to be millionaire. It’s also getting out of trouble by imagining that that speeding ticket doesn’t really exist. (That’s the next post 🙂 ) However, what about incorporating some of the ideas into your life;
- trying to be happy all of the time probably isn’t helpful. Our brains do need some ‘stress’ to activate our sympathetic nervous system to give us momentum and drive to do what’s necessary to keep us alive. There’s a whole industry which would have you believe it’s your human right to never feel anxious, pain, anger etc. Your neurology would say different.
- reframing ideas can be an easy way of using our brain to come to better outcomes. For example, believing that the discomfort you might experience during exercise is not your body being ill, but the impact of you being fitter and healthier. You’re less likely to quit this way.
- believing that you can still add value to the world, in whatever small way you make your own, helps lift your mood and can even increase longevity. You’re much more likely to live a good life as well as a long one.
- if you expect to see pleasant people in your life, you’re more likely to notice those smiling instead of those frowning! That’s got to be good, yes?
- having a concrete expectation works best. If you simply want ‘to feel better’ you’re not really directing your brain at anything specific. What does ‘better’ mean? Instead, if you identify feeling more energetic, sleeping enough etc, these are real goals you can work towards.
What’s happening in your brain?
The researched science is way beyond the scope of this article. However, essentially, our brains don’t differentiate between what is real and what is imagined in its psychology, neurology or phsyiology.
The brain is wired to use existing information. This means it will rely on your previous experience to construct your expected reality and make predictions. You can test this for yourself – (note – the ethics for this are simply that you agree to the experiment!) – when you get up tomorrow, tell yourself that you’re bound to have a bad day because you didn’t sleep as well as you should. It won’t matter that you slept well, giving your brain this message completely over rides the reality. Tell yourself that you won’t be able to concentrate. You’ll feel tired and sluggish and you won’t complete your to do list. Repeat these expectations all day.
Then, the day after, when you wake, tell yourself that you’ll have a good day, no matter how much sleep you had as your body has enough energy to get your through. Remind yourself that you’ll have clarity of thinking, enough motivation to do everything you have to do and end the day feeling satisfied.
Let me know the outcome – of the expectation effect!!