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How the Company You Keep Determines Your Growth and Success

I would imagine that many of you have heard the saying “You’re a product of your environment”, which basically says, whatever surroundings you familiarise yourself with, eventually you become just like.

I’m reading a phenomenal book by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink, and one of the experiments outlined in the book was how subjects loaded with specific keywords responded differently. However, they did not know the keywords impressed upon them.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

The experiment is called “The Scrambled-sentence Test”. And goes something like this:

You walk down a long corridor, enter a doorway, and sit at a table. In front of you is a sheet of paper with a list of five to ten-word sets. You have to make a grammatical four-word sentence as quickly as possible out of each set.

1. him was worried she always

2. front 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

Sounds pretty straightforward; however, what happens is that when you leave your seat and begin walking out and back up the corridor, believe it or not – you would have walked out much slower than when you walked in; this seemingly straightforward test altered the way you behave. 

Peppered through those lists were certain words, such as “worried”, “Florida”, “old”, “lonely”, “grey”, “bingo”, and “wrinkle”. What happened here was the adaptive unconscious started thinking about the state of being old, it didn’t process this information and share it with the rest of your brain, but it took all this data and processed it so that you acted much older when leaving.

This test was devised by a psychologist named John Bargh and demonstrated the importance of our environments. In other tests, they loaded the keywords with “bold”, “aggressive”, “rude”, & “disturb”. They discovered that these people were much more likely to interrupt others who were in conversation. 

In another test, they loaded words such as “respect”, “polite”, “patiently”, & “yield”, and 82% of these people who were loaded with polite gestures never interrupted.

You have got to be careful with whom you spend your time, the environments that you expose yourself to, and things happening behind closed doors that you have no conscious knowledge of, just like the test subjects who had no idea of the word conditioning.

By exposing yourself to environments that are not bringing you fun, growth and positive surroundings, you too may find your adaptive unconscious is making decisions for you.


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