Friday, May 23, 2014

How's Your Attention Span?

The goal of this blog is to add some attentiveness to your Shabbat table. Please print and share.

Our "8 Habits of Lucky People" post two weeks ago generated enough buzz for a sequel.

Twenty years ago, British psychologist Richard Wiseman ran a creative experiment.

(By the way, Wiseman holds what must be the most interesting title in his field: Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology.)
Here's how he describes his experiment:

I placed advertisements in national newspapers and magazines, asking for people who felt consistently lucky or unlucky to contact me. Over the years, 400 extraordinary men and women volunteered for my research from all walks of life: the youngest is an 18-year-old student, the oldest an 84-year-old retired accountant.
Jessica, a 42-year-old forensic scientist, is typical of the lucky group. As she explained: "I have my dream job, two wonderful children and a great guy whom I love very much. It's amazing; when I look back at my life, I realise I have been lucky in just about every area."
In contrast, Carolyn, a 34-year-old care assistant, is typical of the unlucky group. She is accident-prone. In one week, she twisted her ankle in a pothole, injured her back in another fall and reversed her car into a tree during a driving lesson. She was also unlucky in love and felt she was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Over the years, I interviewed these volunteers, asked them to complete diaries, questionnaires and intelligence tests, and invited them to participate in experiments. The findings have revealed that although unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their fortune.

Take the case of chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not. I carried out a simple experiment to discover whether this was due to differences in their ability to spot such opportunities.
I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: "Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.
For fun, I placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: "Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250." Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.
Wiseman's eight-year lucky study lead to his book, The Luck Factor (note: some reviewers prefer Max Gunther's earlier book of the same title.)

In a nutshell, living a "lucky" life seems to have a lot to do with certain attitudes as opposed to actual random luck. (It turns out that true randomness in the universe is rare, and much that appears random, ain't. See also here.)

But let's say the point about attitude is true - how, then, do you change your attitude?

In a more recent book, Wiseman promotes what is actually an ancient Jewish concept, that if you're having trouble changing your attitude, start by changing your behavior.

So here's this week's question for your table:

Will acting lucky make you luckier? Will acting calm make you calmer? Will acting happy make you happier?

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Have you seen all the great summer-vacation-friendly books and toys for kids AND parents at ?

No comments: