Find What You Seek

One of the most interesting studies I read during my six-year stint in graduate school was a basic study in psychology done decades ago. It had to do with people seeing what they want to see, regardless of the actual reality.

The psychologists had a special deck of cards made. The cards were oversized, and they reversed the colors of two of the suites. Hearts were black, and spades were red.

So, when the tester would hold up a card with 5 red spades on it. The participant recorded it as 5 hearts. And when the tester would show an Ace of black hearts, the participant would record it as the Ace of Spades. True to the norms of social science, the tests were repeated until they could confidently assert that the participants saw what they expected to see, not what they actually saw.

Similarly, Dr. Robert Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, has performed numerous tests on the construct of luckiness. He separated the participants into self-identified lucky and unlucky people.

In asking the participants to count the number of photographs in a newspaper, which was printed with clues like signs that read “this page has 23 photographs on it,” the self-described lucky people consistently and significantly outperformed the others.

What you see today has a lot to do with what you expect to see.


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