17. 4. 2019

A lecture of self-Manipulation

All your life you were hearing about bad people manipulating good people. Peddlers selling citizens stuff they don’t need. Politicians promising what they can never achieve. Your friend making you buy him a drink. They are all the same. But have you ever thought about manipulating yourself?

Me neither. However, having just finished a wonderful book Pre-suasion by Robert B. Cialdini, this idea got over my head. There are so many ways one can manipulate himself! You could boost your productivity for almost nothing in return. And since our main topic is studying, I decided to introduce you to some of these methods, which you could use to perform better at it. Nevertheless, since the techniques are universal, feel free to use them to manipulate yourself into anything else.


Commit Yourself (to Study)

Usually, the most challenging thing to do when trying to achieve something is to begin. This might especially be the case when considering studying for school because most of us naturally hate it. Thus, make sure you get rid of as much of studying you hate as possible (for me, it’s e. g. chemistry and physics), and when there is no other option but to study these things, make sure you do it as effective as possible. Not everything is necessary, so stick to what matters. Then, commit yourself to study. Take a paper or your phone and write down when, for how long and how often you are going to study. Set a reminder on your phone. Even one hour three days per week can make a huge difference.

If you have some friends (which, hopefully, you do), you can make a deal with them – everyone makes a plan like this and who can’t stick to his own schedule, treats others for drink on the next Friday.

By doing this, you are experiencing what Cialdini called commitment and consistency. You’ve committed yourself into something, you’ve done so publicly, and now it’s time for you to walk the walk. We tend to consider inconsistent people asocial, sick and sometimes even mentally-retarded. Thus, you should take care with achieving what you had promised.


Start with an Optimistic-ritual

We often give up our tasks and fall into despair because something feels too hard. Studying can often feel too demanding as well. We may feel too tired and demotivated to keep on going when stuff gets difficult. To fight with this desperation, we need optimism.The research have shown that optimism can help you achieve a better score in IQ tests, by producing self-confidence and reducing stress (Hall, Zhao, & Shafir, 2014). But even if you have high self-confidence and aren´t prone to stress you can still profit from the power of optimism. When you are about to study, remind yourself of your accomplishments and pleasant experience that makes you feel triumphant. This ritual will make you feel better and boost you with energy. What this ritual does is that it makes you more motivated and self-confident, which results in more will to fight with the obstacles.


Surround Yourself with Great Minds

 If you are a woman, you might have, in some point of your life, heard someone saying that women are generally worse in maths then man. This is, of course, nonsense, but this stereotype can actually be harmful. If a girl is about to write a math exam, she will actually do worsein case you remind her the fact that she is a girl. On the other hand, if there will be no reminder of her being a girl, she will do as well as boys do. Also, if the girl’s math teacher is a woman, this will reduce the harmful impact that this stereotype has on her(Marx & Roman, 2002). Why is that?

It’s about motivation and self-confidence again. While the math-gender-stereotype of girls being worse than boys reduces both girls’ confidence and motivation, the presence of a math teacher who is a woman and ‘a living symbol of the fact that also girls can make it’ boosts both. Also, if there is no reminder of this stereotype (e. g. girls are writing this test in a whole-girl-class, so there are no boys to make them feel less confident), it will lose its effect as well. So, how can we use this knowledge about gender-stereotypes to stretch our own performance?

Knowing that ‘others like us made it’ helps us achieve our goals. Hack your environment the same way which helped girls score better results in math exams – place a women math teacher (WMT) in front of you. This WMT can be anything that inspires you. If you are a law student, your WMT might be some famous lawyer or diplomat. Likewise, if you are about to become a sports-star, put an image of your favorite sportsman (of sportswomen) in front of you. 1


Surround Yourself with Motivation

 Imagine that you are a call assistant and your goal is to seek sponsors for a local university. You receive your guidance written on paper, and you start your work. After three hours, you are about to take a break, when you find out you performed 60 % worse than your colleague. You start a talk with him to find out what was the difference causing him to perform as much better as you did, but for a while, there is no apparent one. Then, an idea strikes you: What if he received better guidance then I did? So, you check his assignment-paper and find out that there is a difference. And this difference is what made him as much better at mining money out of people.

However, for a while, you can’t get it. How could this make him that much more successful? There was only one difference – after the written assignment, there was a picture of a winning athlete on his guidance (Latham & Piccolo, 2012). On the one you received there were no pictures, only words. So, the image made all the difference.Now, let me emphasize something – if there is a way to boost someone performance by 60 % over the average and it is as simple as printing a picture, we must use it. I used to laugh at all this affecting motivational image and quotes you see everywhere on the Internet. I don’t anymore.

Stop When the Stuff Gets Fun – Make the first step easier

Studying is hard. Usually, we don’t do all of our learning in one work session. We split it into pieces – we study for an hour, and then we take a break. Sometimes, the break is as long as 24 hours (can be even longer, of course). We all know the feeling of getting back to work – it’s horrible. Luckily for us, there is a way to change it.

Imagine you are a writer. Writing is not an easy thing to do since it all depends on your will to get back to work to start where you have finished last. When Cialdini was seeking for some advice on how to write better and more efficiently, he ran into his friend-writer, who gave him an absolutely magical hint – stop writing in the middle of a sentence. She recommended him not to finish what he was doing, so next time when he sits in front of his computer, he won’t have to start from scratch (Cialdini, 2016). This way, when he gets back to work again, there will be this unfinished sentence, thought, or idea, and it will help him get started.

We can use this to help ourselves get back into studying after a break. It won’t be as easy as it is to stop writing in the middle of a sentence, but it’s not impossible either. You can plan your learning the way which will allow you to start and finish in an exciting part of studying, leaving the less-exciting topics to the rest. For example, if you are about to study for two exams, one of which excites you, and the other one doesn’t, you could always start and finish your study-sessions learning the interesting one. This way, you will feel better with getting back to studying, since you will know that the beginning is entertaining.

Watch a Love-story before Studying

Have you seen Titanic? Or at least this? You did, right? If you haven’t, no worries, it’s not that good as they say it is. However, there is definitely a love between Jack and Rosie. And we can use this (or any other) love to boost our performance when studying.


However, let’s take a look at a different emotion first: fear. From the evolution point of view, fear is here to make us aware of the danger. The natural reaction to the threat is seeking for help. When we fear something, we tend to stick to our fellows, form groups to face the danger together. Fear makes us go with the crowd since we feel safer in it. Love does just the opposite. When we are in a romantic situation (or watching a love-story like the Titanic), we feel the urge to separate from the crowd, for we want to enjoy the love by ourselves. Love makes us more individual (Griskevicius et al., 2009).

When we are studying, it’s kind of a lonely journey. We want to become excellent at something. We want to be intelligent, gain knowledge and human capital. All this for our own good – to be able to make a living, to secure a family. Studying is something only we profit from. Thus, it should make sense that watching a love story before learning might increase our motivation to study since it makes us more self-orientated.


The end is never the end

As you can see, manipulating oneself might be a useful thing to do. Now, you can use your new knowledge to manipulate yourself into subscribing our newsletteror reading other of our articles. Have a nice day!


List of References

Cialdini, R. B. (2016). Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade.

Griskevicius, V., Goldstein, N. J., Mortensen, C. R., Sundie, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., & Kenrick, D. T. (2009). Fear and Loving in Las Vegas: Evolution, Emotion, and Persuasion. JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, 46(3), 384–395.

Hall, C. C., Zhao, J., & Shafir, E. (2014). Self-Affirmation Among the Poor. Psychological Science, 25(2), 619–625.


Marx, D. M., & Roman, J. S. (2002). Female Role Models: Protecting Women’s Math Test Performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(9), 1183–1193.

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