these two things

Okay, friends, it’s apparently been about a month and a half since I last wrote something —anything, come to think of it. I felt like writing today, and I’m a bit rusty. I hope you’ll bear with me.

I want to write about two things I’ve read that stick with me and I refer to mentally when things seem overwhelming with, well, everything the way it is these days.

  1. This article from Smithsonian magazine (“Why I Take Fake Pills”, link added): In summary, it says that placebos work. Typically, when looking at the placebo effect in pharmaceutical studies, the assumption is that the drug doesn’t work if it does no better than placebo. This article covers it from a different angle: do placebos work, and if so, how? My takeaway from it is that, to some extent, if you think something will work, it will. It lightly touches on the nocebo effect, which is when you anticipate negative side effects and they occur. For me, it helps me keep self-fulfilling prophecies in perspective. We’re very suggestible creatures. Give yourself a ritual, tell yourself it will work, and go about your business.

  2. This study (“Neurobiological Correlates of Social Conformity and Independence During Mental Rotation”, link added) by Gregory Berns and his team at Emory University based on the work of Solomon Asch. There have been several articles about it, and I came across it while reading Quiet by Susan Cain (an excellent book that says introverts are wonderful, so how could it be bad?). It essentially says that peer pressure is not only a social thing, but it actually affects your perception of the world. They planted people getting the wrong answer in a group and watched fMRIs while most of the participants changed their minds to conform to the incorrect response of the most decisive participant, the person who had been planted to mislead everyone —not only did they change their minds, but it altered their perception. People who did not go along with the group activated a different part of their brain associated with fear, because it’s hard to be rejected by the group. I think about this work when I think about why I agree or disagree with things, and also to remind myself, it is possible to be right and still have to deal with rejection and that’s okay. I have a tendency to want to see all angles, but sometimes, that’s not appropriate.

I’m sharing these with you today because maybe they can help you. Also, I’m trying to get back in the swing of writing on a semi-regular basis. Thank you for reading.