Tag: behavioural therapy

    The Illusion of Control: Are There Benefits to Being Self-Deluded?

    The Illusion of Control
    Do people always over-estimate how much they control their lives?

    The ‘illusion of control’ is this: people tend to overestimate their perceived control over events in their lives. It’s well documented and has been tested over-and-over in lots of different studies over four decades.

    Here’s an example: you choose an apple which tastes delicious. You assume you are very skilled at choosing apples (when in fact the whole batch happens to be good today).

    Another: you enter the lottery and win millions. You assume that this is (partly) a result of how good your lucky numbers are (in fact lotteries are totally random so you can’t influence them with the numbers you choose. Although most of us know and accept this, we still harbour an inkling that maybe it does matter which numbers we choose).

    Sometimes this illusion manifests as magical thinking. In one study participants watched another person try to shoot a miniature basketball through a hoop (Pronin et al., 2006). When participants willed the player to make the shot, and they did, they felt it was partly down to them, even though they couldn’t possibly be having any effect.

    It’s like pedestrians in New York who still press the button to get the lights to change, despite the fact they do nothing. Since the late 80s all the traffic signals have been controlled by computer, but the city won’t pay to have the buttons removed. It’s probably just as well: they help boost people’s illusion of control. We feel better when we can do something that feels like it might have an effect (even if it doesn’t).

    A beneficial illusion?

    It’s sometimes argued that the illusion of control is beneficial because it can encourage people to take responsibility. It’s like when a person is diagnosed with an illness; they want to take control through starting medication or changing their diet or other aspect of their lifestyle.

    Similarly, studies find that hospital patients who are able to administer their own painkillers from https://www.ukmeds.co.uk/treatments/pain-relief/dihydrocodeine-30mg-tablets/ typically give themselves lower doses than those who have them prescribed by doctors, but they experience no more pain (Egan, 1990: What does it mean to a patient to be “in control”)a study has also shown that many people try to find how to get rid of external hemorrhoids permanently very desperately.

    Feeling in control can also urge us on to do things when the chances of success are low. Would you apply for that job if you knew how little control you had over the decision? No. But if you never apply for any jobs, you can’t get them. So we pump ourselves up, polish our résumé and practice our interview technique.

    But the illusion of control isn’t all roses.

    To return to the discussion of lotteries, we can see the illusion of control operating in the financial markets. Traders often feel they have more control over the market than they really do. Indeed one study has shown that the more traders think they are in control, the worse their actual performance (O’Creevy & Nicholson, 2010). A word of caution there for those who don’t respect the forces of randomness.

    More generally, some argue that the illusion of control stops us learning from our mistakes and makes us insensitive to feedback. When you feel you’re in charge, you are more likely to ignore the warning signals from the environment that things are not under your control. Indeed an experiment has shown that the more power you feel, the stronger the illusion of control becomes (Fast et al., 2009).

    Illusion of futility

    So far, so orthodox. What’s fascinating is the idea that the illusion of control itself may be an illusion, or at least only part of the story.

    What if the illusion of having control depends heavily on how much control we actually have? After all, we’re not always totally out-of-the-loop like the experiments above suggest. Sometimes we have a lot of control over the outcomes in our life.

    This has been recently tested out in a series of experiments by Gino et al. (2011). What they found was that the illusion of control flips around when control over a situation is really high. When participants in their studies actually had plenty of control, suddenly they were more likely to underestimate it.

    This is a pretty serious challenge to the illusion of control. If backed up by other studies, it reverses the idea that the illusion of control is usually beneficial. Now we’re in a world where sometimes the illusion is keeping us back.

    For example, applying for more jobs increases the chance of getting one, exercise does make you more healthy, buying a new car does make you poorer. All these are areas in which we have high levels of control but which we may well be assuming we haven’t.

    This effect will have to be renamed the illusion of futility. In other words: when you have high control, you underestimate how much what you do really matters.

    Lack of Education Is As Deadly As Smoking

    Lack of Education Is As Deadly As Smoking

    Data from over one million people born over 20 years finds a clear link between education and lifespan and shows that lack of education is as deadly as smoking.

    A strong link has been found between education and mortality. Data gathered from 1986 to 2006 on more than one million people estimated the number of mortalities that were linked to low levels of education.

    The research suggests that higher level of education can potentially save lives over time. To understand how, researchers studied people born in 1925, 1935, and 1945. They found a strong link between poor education and causes of death such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

    The survival rate was much higher for well-educated people as they were more likely to find ways to prevent and treat diseases. Higher education is also a strong predictor of living longer and being healthier because of factors including higher income, improved social and psychological well-being and social status.

    Dr Virginia Chang, associate professor of population health at NYU School of Medicine, said:

    “In public health policy, we often focus on changing health behaviors such as diet, smoking, and drinking.

    Education — which is a more fundamental, upstream driver of health behaviors and disparities — should also be a key element of U.S. health policy.”

    The research suggests that 145,243 deaths in the US could be saved if adults without a high school degree went on to complete that level of education.

    And 110,068 deaths could be saved in the US if adults with some college education completed their bachelor’s degree.

    Dr Patrick Krueger the first author of this study said:

    “Our results suggest that policies and interventions that improve educational attainment could substantially improve survival in the U.S. population, especially given widening educational disparities.

    Unless these trends change, the mortality attributable to low education will continue to increase in the future.”

    The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE (Krueger et al., 2015).

    Negative Emotions are Bad for Your Health

    Negative Emotions are Bad for Your HealthIf you’re an ‘A’-Type personality and get stressed easily at everyday irritations, you could be lining yourself up for mental health problems in the future. Negative emotions are bad for your health.

    In fact, getting irritated about the small things in life is just as bad for your health as eating a poor diet or not exercising.

    Using data from two national surveys, researchers found negative responses to daily stresses such as arguments with a partner, conflicts at work, standing in long queues or sitting in traffic led to psychological distress or anxiety and mood disorders ten years later. See real readings from a legitimate psychic medium here to know more about your future anxieties. Visit TranquilMe to learn more about massages that make your body relaxed.

    The results were published in the journal Psychological Science and based on data from the Midlife Development in the United States project and the National Study of Daily Experiences, from men and women aged 25 and 74.

    Team leader Professor Charles said: “How we manage daily emotions matters to our overall mental health. We’re so focused on long-term goals that we don’t see the importance of regulating our emotions. Changing how you respond to stress and how you think about stressful situations is as important as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.”

    If this sounds like you, you may benefit from my 7-week How to Beat Stress and Depression email course. You will learn how to spot the early warning signs of stress and identify thoughts, feeling and behaviours and understand the links. You will also learn techniques for making changes to your behaviour patterns, how to ‘diffuse’ your negative thoughts and use imagery techniques to de-stress.

    Remember, negative emotions are bad for your health — the sooner you learn how to deal with them the better…