#960 Capturing a Richer Mindset

Via the Power of Placebo-Words

In our last +1, we revisited Ellen Langer at her “Psychology of Possibility” lab at Harvard to learn that words matter.

As you may recall, simply priming people with words associated with old age (via a crossword puzzle!) will cause them to walk more slowly to the elevator than those who weren’t primed with those words.

*rubs eyes*

One more time: Astonishing, eh?


One more time: WORDS MATTER. A lot.

Langer shares that study and wisdom in her book Counterclockwise in a section in which she also talks about “placebos” and other truly fascinating studies.

Here’s how she puts it: “When we see mind and body as parts of a single entity, the research on placebos takes on new meaning and suggests we can not only control much of our disease experience, but we may also be able to extend our ability to gain, recover, or enhance our health.

Placebos often come in the form of a single word that captures a richer mindset. In one study I conducted with my students, we explored the mindset most of us have regarding excellent vision air force pilots have. All participants were given a vision test. One group of participants were then encouraged to role-play ‘air force pilots.’ They dressed the part and, in uniform, sat in a flight simulator. They were asked to read the letters on the wing of a nearby plane, which were actually part of an eye chart. Those participants who adopted the ‘pilot’ mindset, primed to have excellent vision, showed improved vision over those who were simulating being in the simulator and simply asked to read an eye chart from the same distance.


Just having people pretend that they’re air force pilots can improve their vision?



That’s Today’s +1.

What’s YOUR “single word that captures a richer mindset”?

Let’s pop that mantra-placebo word all day Today. 🤓

And, if you feel so inspired, why not even dress the part as well? 🤓 🤓 🤓

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