Home > Uncategorized > I Think I Can…can I?

I Think I Can…can I?

While surfing the Bad Science blog, a post caught my interest. In his post “The golden arse beam method” Dr. Goldacre mentioned a study that looked at whether or not behaviors changed after practicing different ways of thinking about the goals they wished to achieve (in the case of this study the goal was to eat more fruit). 

The participants were split up into four groups, and each group was assigned to either repeat “eat more fruit” to themselves, imagine themselves enjoying fruit, repeat verbal plans for what they would do when they see fruit, or create a detailed mental image of themselves finding fruit, picking it up, touching it, and finally eating it. Although a short study, it found that the group that imagined themselves doing the latter task doubled their intake of fruit.

Just how effective is our mental willpower? If we sit and imagine detailed plans of how we are going to accomplish our goals (both small and big) and how we will experience them, will it affect the outcome? 

I personally have a hard time creating goals and then following through in order to reach them. While I don’t necessarily believe that this method of ‘positive mental thinking’ that’s described in the study will magically make the outcome of my actions different, I think that it could be a beneficial way to put people in the right mindset and help them focus to work on ways to accomplish the task they are thinking about.


  1. anthonypribadi
    March 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Hi pookersays, this issue is really interesting! I’ve heard similar stuffs about this, too. I think the result of the experiment in your post makes sense. I think one of the possible reasoning is that we humans have both conscious and unconscious mind. The more we think/imagine/dream about certain things, the more likely those certain things will be thought by our unconscious mind.

    While conscious mind works only under our consciousness, the unconscious one works all the time. I had an experience, having a dream (when I was sleeping) about solving my problem that I had been thinking about for the last few days before that. It was such a brilliant new idea in my dream. Fortunately enough, I suddenly woke up and still remembered the solution proposed in my night dream.

    I think (by the way, I acknowledge myself as a non professional in this area) that whatever we do in our daily activities is strongly influenced by our unconscious mind which is further influenced by a lot factors, such as: our routines, religion, friends, recently watched movies, etc. And I think the latter group in the experiment (in the post) to some extent changed their unconscious minds, and hence, the result.

  2. ProfMyers
    March 5, 2012 at 12:27 am

    As your writing professor, I want to encourage you to try this method out when revising!–That is, when thinking about your essay, imagine yourself reorganizing it, reworking sections, moving pieces around, etc. Research shows it works!

  3. lexicory
    March 5, 2012 at 5:16 am

    Mental willpower is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. Strong mental willpower has been able to overcome not only mental issues, but also physical ones. Many soldiers are trained to give their brains a high pain tolerance, and indeed there are many ways to “trick” the mind into something physical such as pain being a lesser degree. Mental willpower is often the key to overcoming obstacles in life, and being able to push through tough times. When training or conditioning for sports or a marathon or something simpler, physical strength and endurance isn’t enough- mental strength is sometimes an even bigger part of success.

  4. March 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I think this is really fascinating. I have heard many times that positive psychology is extremely helpful and that it yields better results than thinking negatively. While I have had doubts about thinking in this way, I think you are right in saying that it allows someone to be “in the right mindset” to achieve a goal or complete a task. I do think that willpower is extremely powerful if you give it the focus required, but for me the biggest problem is actually having the belief that it will improve the results.

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