Psychological theories give us insight into our behavior and provide answers as to why we do the things we do. Some of those could even change your life.
As human beings, we love to talk and learn about ourselves, ever striving to delve deeper into what motivates us. Sometimes, however, the answers the psychological theories provide can be disturbing and change the way we feel about our lives. Once revealed, we may never regard our fellow human beings in the same light again.
Here are 5 psychological theories that could change your life:
1. All you need is love
The Harvard Grant study followed 268 Harvard male undergraduates from classes of 1938-1940 for 75 years, collecting data on all aspects on their lives. The conclusion to this massive longitudinal study? Love is the most important thing you need in your life.
The director of the study, psychiatrist George Vaillant, said that there are two pillars of happiness:
“One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”
A man could have a good job, money and be in great health, but if he was not in a fulfilling relationship, none of these things would matter.
Multiple psychological theories and studies reveal that making connections to others is the key to a happy life. For example, Mother Teresa had an awful childhood but she spent her life caring for others, and this gave her great happiness.
2. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely
One study showed how power can influence our behavior. Participants were spit into groups of three and within these groups, some were designated as leaders of the groups. The leaders were in charge of giving points to the other members of the groups, depending on their contributions to the tasks.
During the experiment, researchers came in with a plate of five cookies. The leaders almost always ate two cookies and ate them greedily in a sloppy manner with their mouths open getting crumbs everywhere.
But greed and bad manners were not the only unwanted behavioral trait that the study revealed. Researchers state that forms of aggression, such as sexual harassment against women and hate crimes against minority groups, were also noted.
3. You are what you speak
Language is incredibly important and can affect how people perceive us. But did you know that according to a couple of university professors, it also helps to determine what we take notice of, what we ignore and how we categorize things?
Lera Boroditsky and Aneta Pavlenko use the Australian Aboriginal language Guugu Yimithirr as an example. This particular dialect does not have specific words for ‘left’ or ‘right,’ so instead, they would use ‘east’ or ‘west’ for these words. The French and Spanish assign genders to objects and in Russia, objects are described by their shape, not the material they are made from.
Boroditsky says that language is a factor that shapes how we view the world and it also shapes our way of thinking like no other form of learning. As anyone who has ever learned a foreign language will know, once you start thinking in another language, your mind expands like nothing else.
4. We can only pay attention to one thing at a time
We all like to think that we can multi-task with the best of them, but when it comes to paying attention, who is better, men or women? Turns out, neither.
In the classic experiment known as the ‘gorilla test’, psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons created a short film that showed two basketball teams, one wearing black and the other in white, passing basketballs between them. Participants were asked to count the number of passes made by the white team.
In the middle of the video, a woman wearing a gorilla suit walks onto the scene, thumps her chest several times and then walks off. She appears on screen for around 9 seconds in total.
Thousands of people have watched this video, but only 50% spotted the gorilla. This is because when you are asked to concentrate on one thing, your mind cannot see anything else.
Gorilla video below:
5. It’s the little things that really matter in life
Most of us would name getting married, having children, graduating or securing a new job as the important things in our lives. However, research shows that this is not the case.
In fact, it is the little things that give us meaning in life, the big things are typically not directly involved with our wellbeing. They do affect us because of the little uplifts and daily hassles they produce.
For instance, think about how you get work satisfaction, it is mainly affected by everyday hassles at work. So if you get fewer, then you are more likely to have a greater job satisfaction. All these little things, such as better family relationships, good quality sleep, little ups and down at work all add up to a better life quality. They affect our happiness in a way that the major life events cannot.
So it’s true, the little things really do matter, and even psychological theories confirm that.