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The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

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Season 1

Don't Accentuate the Positive
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We often think positive thinking is the best way to achieve our ambitions - but the science shows it holds us all back. Dr Laurie Santos hears how champion swimmer Michael Phelps imagined the worst to help make his Olympic dreams come true. It’s a mental habit that you can learn too.

To learn more. . .

Bob Bowman’s book

Gabriele Oettingen’s website

Kristin Beck’s information

Links to references from this episode. . . 

“Peale is famous for his 1952 book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

“So wrote Rhonda Byrne in her 2006 book.”

“Bob’s visualization technique is based on the latest science of what researchers call mental practice.”

Driskell, J. E., Copper, C., & Moran, A. (1994). Does mental practice enhance performance?. Journal of applied psychology, 79(4), 481.

“Mental practice works because our minds aren’t all that great at telling the difference between something that’s really happening to us, and something we just imagined.”

Kosslyn, S. (1994). Image & Brain. MIT Press.

 “The psychologist Carey Morewedge and his colleagues wanted to see if simply imagining eating lots of bad food can have the same consequences as actually eating a lot of bad food.”

Morewedge, C. K., Huh, Y. E., & Vosgerau, J. (2010). Thought for food: Imagined consumption reduces actual consumption. Science, 330(6010), 1530-1533.

“Coach Bob Bowman was poolside when the race suddenly went wrong.”

For a video of this race, see this link.

 “I’m talking with Gabriele Oettingen, Professor of Psychology at NYU and author of a book entitled Rethinking Positive Thinking.”

Oettingen, G. (2015). Rethinking positive thinking: Inside the new science of motivation. Current.

“You name the goal, and research shows that positive thinking makes it less likely you’ll reach it.”

Oettingen, G., & Mayer, D. (2002). The motivating function of thinking about the future: Expectations versus fantasies. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(5), 1198

Oettingen, G., & Wadden, T. A. (1991). Expectation, fantasy, and weight loss: Is the impact of positive thinking always positive?. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 15(2), 167-175

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Portnow, S. (2016). Pleasure now, pain later: Positive fantasies about the future predict symptoms of depression. Psychological Science, 27(3), 345-353.

• For a review of all this work:

Oettingen, G. (2015). Rethinking positive thinking: Inside the new science of motivation. Current.

“It’s a strategy Gabrielle calls “mental contrasting.”

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Timur Sevincer, A., Stephens, E. J., Pak, H. J., & Hagenah, M. (2009). Mental contrasting and goal commitment: The mediating role of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(5), 608-622.

“Kristin is a transgender woman and the author of Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender.”

Beck, K & Speckhard, A. (2013) Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender. Advances Press

“In addition to simulating the obstacles, Gabrielle also recommends taking time to imagine— very intentionally— what it would feel like to implement our plan whenever the obstacle comes up.”

Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. (2010). Strategies of setting and implementing goals: Mental contrasting and implementation intentions (pp. 114-135).

“That's right.. . . WOOP.”

Oettingen, G. (2015). Rethinking positive thinking: Inside the new science of motivation. Current.

http://woopmylife.org/app