Playing Pretend Pays

On Mixonian’s September 23 post, I wrote about grown-ups playing pretend….in a good way, of course. Playing pretend to exercise one’s imagination and make life more interesting, not to escape responsibility. Exercising this resource can pay off in tangible dividends as well. Read on.

Since that post was published, research has surfaced that shows how pretending can actually pay off, in higher test scores, or possibly in investment dividends. Here is a true story on the power of imagination in ordinary people.

This account comes straight from Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.

Two Dutch researchers did a study in which they had groups of students answer forty-two fairly demanding questions from the board game ‘Trivial Pursuit.’ Half were asked to take five minutes beforehand to think about what it would mean to be a professor and write down everything that came to mind. Those students got 55.6% of the questions right. The other half of thes tudents were asked to first sit and think about soccer hooligans. They ended up getting 42.6% of the ‘Trivial Pursuit’ questions right. The “professor” group didn’t know more than the “soccer hooligan” group. They weren’t smarter or more focused or more serious. They were simply in a “smart” frame of mind, and clearly, associating themselves with the idea of something smart, like a professor, made it a lot easier — in that stressful instant after a trivia question was asked — to blurt out the right answer. The difference between 55.6% and 42.6%, it should be pointed out, is enormous. That can be the difference between passing and failing (56).

Far be it from Mixonian to question the validity of whether professors are really any smarter than soccer hooligans, but this study definitely supports the power of imagination to deliver real results.

The human imagination is a free unlimited resource at your disposal – the more you use it, the more it works for you. And this resource is safe from all financial economic crises.


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