Riddle Me This: The Suggestible Mind Edition

“Imagine that I’m a professor, and I’ve asked you to come and see me in my office. You walk down a long corridor, come through the doorway, and sit down at a table. In front of you is a sheet of paper with a list of five-word sets. I want you to make a grammatical four-word sentence as quickly as possible out of each set. It’s a scrambled-sentence test. Ready?

1) him was worried she always
2) from are Florida oranges temperature
3) ball the throw toss silently
4) shoes give replace old the
5) he observes occasionally people watches
6) be will sweat lonely they
7) sky the seamless gray is
8) should now withdraw forgetful we
9) us bingo sing play let
10) sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisins

That seemed straightforward, right? Actually it wasn’t. After you finished that test- believe it or not- you would have walked out of my office and back down the hall more slowly than you walked in. With that test, I affected the way you behaved. How? Well, look back at the list. Scattered throughout it are certain words, such as ‘worried,’ ‘Florida,’ ‘old,’ ‘lonely,’ ‘gray,’ ‘bingo,’ and ‘wrinkle.’ You thought that I was just making you take a language test. But, in fact, what I was doing was making the big computer in your brain- your adaptive unconscious- think about the state of being old. It didn’t inform the rest of your brain about its sudden obsession. But it took all this talk of old age so seriously that by the time you finished and walked down the corridor, you acted old. You walked slowly.

The test was devised by a very clever psychologist named John Bargh. It’s an example of what is called a priming experiment, and Bargh and others have done numerous even more fascinating variations of it, all of which show just how much goes on behind that locked door of or unconscious.” -From, “Blink” By: Malcolm Gladwell

After reading the above book excerpt, I must ask: How suggestible is the human mind? How is the suggestibility of our minds manipulated?

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