Does Imagining Positive Outcomes Solve Problems?
New Age gurus tell us that if we can imagine the solution to a problem and really feel the relief, it’s well on its way to being solved. Is this really true? To find out, two groups of UCLA students took part in an experiment: one group retraced the events that led step by step to a personal problem they had. The other group imagined feeling the relief of the problem solved. Which group fared best in coping with their problems? Find out here:
According to this fascinating book (subtitled Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die), the two UCLA experiment groups did the following:
1. The Event Simulators retraced step by step the events that led to their problem, with the idea that reviewing the causal chain might help the students to think about how to fix the problem.
2. The Outcome-Simulators mentally simulated a desired outcome: what will it feel like once this problem is behind me? This group focused on imagining the relief.
Guess which group coped better with their problems?
Answer: Okay, this may fly in the face of the conventional New Age wisdom, but the Event-Simulators did better in almost every dimension.
In fact, the results showed that the Event Simulators were much more likely than the Outcome-Simulators to have:
* experienced a positive mood-boost
* taken specific action to resolve the problem
* sought advice and support from others
* report that they had learned something and grown
“You may find these results a bit counterintuitive,” say the authors, “because the pop-psychology literature is full of gurus urging you to visualize success. It turns out that a positive mental attitude isn’t quite enough to get the job done. Maybe financial gurus shouldn’t be telling us to imagine that we’re filthy rich; instead they should be telling us to replay the steps that led to our being poor.”
Inspired by Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Random House, 2007).