The Power Position

24 Dec

How often do you make a decision, react or respond a certain way, ask a question, or choose a mode of action based on what you think others are thinking? What about your level of generosity? Ever considered what impacts when and how much you will “give”?

Scientists have uncovered and studied extensively what is called the calorie heuristic. We aren’t talking about actual food here, but it does relate to self-preservation of sorts.

What they have found is that we act in ways that most often serve our best interests and what we deem fair and equitable. The last part of that sentence is important.

Brain scans have  revealed that when we perceive we are being approached with self centeredness, the areas involved in aversion light up. In other words, we find self-serving and unfair behavior to be emotionally unpleasant. Not a surprise really. The same holds true for what we perceive as genuine fairness as well. Neurons are firing away. But importantly, this happens quickly and in brain areas that are automatic.  What does this mean? It means that our impulse toward fairness is so ingrained that it’s not necessarily approached rationally.

An example: researchers told a group of people that they would be given an offer of a portion of a pot of money by another individual. The offer could be accepted or rejected. That was it. The pot might be different, so the offer could be judged as either stingy or fair. Each person rated themselves on how happy or disdainful they were regarding the offer. The offers that were closer to the pot amount generated more happy responses. Not surprising. But many people rejected the offer despite the fact that they would get free money if they thought the offer was stingy! An emotional response to what is perceived as being taken advantage of? Think about how this could impact your relationships!

Can we trump it? Sure. But we have to slow down long enough to recognize what our perceptions are!

Now, for those of you who are competitors and diet very stringently, you’ll want to pay attention. Going back to calories, if you are hungry or have food on your mind, you are likely to be less than generous. Duh, you’re thinking. I’m a monster to my family!

But this goes for anyone who has been primed to think about food even outside of normal physiological hunger!

Eat breakfast before you open the presents tomorrow morning so you’re not snapping at your family members!

The lessons here: Pause. Think before you speak. Pay attention. What is influencing you?

Merry Christmas!

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