By MH Staff - Posted on 10th October 2013
Social psychologists have theories to explain destructive behaviours, and simply being aware of your tendencies can help
The Scenario Your doctor says you should eat oats to lower your cholesterol, but you’ve been chowing down on the same egg and bacon sandwich for as long as you can remember. You love the sandwich, so you ignore the advice. The Mental Barrier The more familiar you are with something, the more you like it, says Dr Tanya Chartrand, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University. If you habitually eat poorly, it’ll be hard to do otherwise. The Fix Create a new habit. Force yourself to have oats every day until it becomes your go-to morning comfort food. Day one might be tough, but Dutch researchers found that old vices become less appealing after you fight them off three times.
The Scenario You land an interview for a job you consider yourself perfect for. To play it safe, you stay up late preparing. But then you oversleep and show up disheveled. Still, you’re qualified – and you nail every question. So why didn’t you get the job? The Mental Barrier “This says my judgment in one area bleeds into other areas,” says Dr Brad Verhulst, a postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University. They saw your puffy eyes and figured you weren’t fit for the job. The Fix Use the halo to your advantage. “People who are perceived as attractive are also perceived as more competent,” says Verhulst. So the night before the interview, take it easy and go to bed early. Then you’ll show up looking the part.
The Scenario You spot a cute girl at the gym and start to walk over to say hi. Suddenly you notice all the people working out around you. You imagine them chuckling as you stammer through your pick-up attempt. You decide not to risk it. The Mental Barrier This is people’s tendency to over-estimate how much attention other people pay to their everyday behaviour. When you think all eyes are on you, you’re less inclined to act creatively or to take public risks. The Fix Realise nobody cares. A Cornell University study had participants wear funny T-shirts and guess how many people noticed. They overestimated – by double. Point is, people are about half as interested in you as you think they are.
The Scenario The waitress at your favourite happy hour spot is ignoring your group’s table. Why? Because last time you accidentally stiffed her when settling the tab. (You paid exact change, assuming someone else had covered the tip.) The Mental Barrier The more members a group has, the less responsibility any individual person feels to do the right thing. “Because everyone thinks like this, the tip ends up being smaller than it should be,” says Verhulst. The Fix Take responsibility for yourself. The best way to neutralise herd mentality is to acknowledge it, Verhulst says. Either plan on overpaying or ask the waitress to split the bill. That’ll keep happy hour service prompt.