Conjure before your mind the image of a physics professor. Imagine what his life is like. Now pretend, for a few moments, that you are that person. Try to get a feel for what it is like to be him.
Now let’s start anew. This time think of a cheerleader. Picture her; imagine what her life is like. Now pretend to be her. Imagine what it is like to be her.
When psychologist Adam Galinksy and his collaborator at Northwestern University asked subjects to carry out this sort of exercise, they made a startling finding. After the exercise, subjects were asked to characterize themselves. Those individuals who had imaginatively adopted the perspective of the professor were more likely to describe themselves as clever than those who had been assigned the cheerleader persona. And those who had adopted the cheerleader perspective, were correspondingly more likely to describe themselves as gorgeous.
But that’s not all. The exercise had actual effects on how people performed on tests. Those who had identified with the professor performed better on tests of analytic intelligence than those who had identified with the cheerleader!
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