I have read research recently by Lian Pham and Shelley Taylor from the University of California that shows visualising to achieve our goals is ineffective or even detrimental to their realisation. Does anyone else have any more information on this?
I wonder why that research and its conclusions matter to you one way or the other, if indeed it does?
It's long been established that many spiritual and metaphysical concepts cannot be proved one way or the other to anyone, except for proving to oneself that they either work or they don't work.
Why is this?
It's a bit tricky to comprehend, but it’s to do with the very nature of beliefs and how belief systems work. To prove itself as the most likely and probable truth, any belief must seem to us as though it’s the only truth.
This is achieved by any belief, that’s believed in, bringing evidence to you (through the LOA) that it is the only truth. And upon seeing that evidence, you say: ahh, that must be true because here’s the evidence of that truth; and the cycle continues...
Hence the nature of beliefs is that they’re self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating.
Once a person realizes that any belief believed in must prove itself to them as the most likely or only truth; they will use discernment when choosing any particular belief system and they’ll choose to believe in any belief because it resonates with them and thus they know that it will serve them in some way.
Is there really any need to prove anything one way or another, accept to oneself?
A lot of people get caught out and confused by the self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating nature of belief, because it takes time, due to what I call Universal Bounce Back, to change any belief. Because any belief is self-perpetuating, even after you’ve decided that the belief no longer serves you, evidence of that former belief will still present itself to you as being true for a while.
However, if you keep believing in your new belief, then, over time, evidence of your new belief must show up in your life, because that’s the nature of belief. Remember that all physical reality is first a thought before being realized or manifesting as your physical reality experience.
The bottom line is that if you believe in any research which denies that visualization works, then you will see evidence in your life that it doesn’t work for you; thus proving to you that your belief is true. And then you may even comment to others that it doesn’t work and you’d be right based upon your current self-limiting viewpoint.
Knowing the true nature of belief systems gives you an edge, in terms of you no longer jumping to conclusions and indeed, no longer having any hard and fixed conclusions about reality. This understanding also gives one an insight into the illusional nature of reality; a reality which can always be molded to fit your preference, simply by changing your beliefs and expectations about it :)
answered 17 Jan '12, 00:37
You have a well-crafted question because most of the answers that are given have nothing to do with the question you asked but nevertheless they are the type of answers that come forth as a reaction to the question, dare I say that makes it a brilliantly crafted question.
So I too am going to first react to it in the way you intended me to react.
Although I was interested in the un-explained for a long time before learning about visualization, I experienced a dramatic turning point with visualization.
It was the first time where I was able to take a concept that was pure (to quote Michael Shermer) "WOO" or "Mumbo Jumbo" and put it to test and get actual results out of it.
I started testing Visualization according to the confines within which it is supposed to be applied with situations in my own life and time and time again I started getting results that defied explanation.
Initially I thought it was pure chance or just co-incidence.
So I started testing it with a deliberate methodical approach to eliminate all possibilities of chance and coincidence.
Although it was harder this time, I still managed to get results that just did not fit any conventional explanation.
So for me it wasn't a case of does visualization work?
I was more perplexed with the question why does it work?
20 years later here I am so glad to see that there are others out there who have had the privilege to learn about, test & verify these concepts for themselves and are willing to generously share their techniques without any financial return on this forum.
If you have been here long enough you know who I am talking about.
But everything that I have said so far has absolutely nothing to do with the question you asked.
You asked if anyone has information on the U of C Research that Visualizing doesn't work.
Since this contradicts my actual experience with visualization it is very unlikely that I would give it much attention if I were to stumble upon it.
For me to do so would be no different from me being interested in a research suggesting that the earth is flat after I have experienced it being round, because I Personally verified that it is in fact round when I looked out the window during my last trans-Atlantic flight and did see the curvature of the earth.
So the answer to your question is: No I don't have any more information, or for that matter, any information on the research that visualization doesn't work.
However since you know the names of the researchers, Lian Pham and Shelley Taylor, I'm sure if you are really interested, the University of California would be more than happy to give you an update on their latest findings that visualization doesn't work.
Let's face it; there is no absolute truth ... quantum theories go so far as to "prove" that matter itself is pure energy, so our physical world disappears into a cloud of invisibility ... from this void we have the capacity (i believe and certainly hope so otherwise we really are in trouble, lol) to create whatever we can imagine ...
"The Seven Lies of Success" from the book "Unlimited Power" by Anthony Robbins explains very well the way i enjoy to believe things to be
I think this question has been addressed quite well by a few people, so I'm going to skip the part where I just repeat the awesome things that others already said. Just a thought regarding the question itself: I personally think that questions like this are a good thing to be embraced, not a bad thing to be feared.
Alan made a comment that really resonated with me, and it is something I have a lot of respect for and think is a very valuable lesson about lessons:
Since I can only speak for myself I will say this: Just because I will from time to time challenge beliefs [ especially ones I share] doesn't mean that I don't still believe in them. Sometimes [for me at least] it is very healthy to step back and analyze things from a different perspective, and you never know when you'll accidentally learn something you never knew simply because you were willing to look at the picture from another point of view.
You don't say the exact study. There have been a few studies performed by them on that topic from what I can see.
I just read through the study entitled "From Thought to Action: Effects of Process- Versus Outcome-Based Mental Simulations on Performance" [DOI: 10.1177/0146167299025002010 Pers Soc Psychol Bull 1999 25: 250 Lien B. Pham and Shelley E. Taylor]. There is another study entitled "Harnessing the imagination: Mental simulation, self-regulation, and coping." which they were involved in and was published a year earlier too. I'm going to presume you are referring to the study I read.
I also have to presume you read an article referring to the study, and not the study itself, since the research absolutely does not show that "visualizing doesn't work."
The study was basically this...101 undergraduates are taken about one week before their exam and randomly sorted into four groups. One of these groups is the control group. One group the process simulation group (which are told to visualize themselves studying in a way that would allow them to get a high grade). One group is the outcome simulation group (which are told to visualize themselves achieving a high grade on the exam). And the final group is a group which are told to do both the process and the outcome simulation.
They were then questioned to determine scores on a whole variety of points, such as motivation, anxiety, outcome expectancy, planned hours of study etc and made to perform the mental exercise. Afterwards they are told to continue doing whatever their mental exercise was for 5 minutes each day until they had the exam (so for around a week).
They are checked up on, and their "scores" retaken again on two other time periods; The day before the exam, and the day after the exam. The final exam marks for the students (where possible) are then obtained and compared. A mathematical model is created and all the "scores" are compared statistically.
I'll just copy the exam results out here for you:
So basically, the group that visualized studying achieved a very marginally higher grade average than the other groups. And a significantly higher mark than those who visualized outcome only.
Further analysis also showed that those who visualized studying actually did study more than the other groups, and were much closer to the predicted amount they wanted to study than any of the other groups (and yes those focused on the outcome studied the least). However, the hours of study were shown to not be important when it came to grades achieved and some other reason for the higher grades had to be proposed (they proposed that the visualizing studying allowed the person to study more efficiently). That is really not surprising since it's known that grades don't really correlate well to time spent studying (I know that personally, since I was always one of those people who hardly ever studied and yet was top of the class).
So the study concluded that process visualization was effective at improving the final grade, but that outcome visualization was not effective and actually turned out to be detrimental.
But that all was not a very interesting part of the study for me, I saw some facts in it far more interesting. Kakaboo pointed out the important of believing it is possible for you to get what you are visualizing when you do those kind of visualizations, or they can backfire. That is considered a fairly standard "part of the equation" nowadays with doing those kind of "outcome visualizations".
In the study, there is evidence given that those visualizing studying effectively (and I quote): "were more certain of achieving their desired grade on the exam than those who did not simulate the process." Further, they showed significantly less negative feelings, to a p<0.006 level.
The day before the exam, when the participants were checked again, those who had been visualizing getting a good grade on the exam were found (significantly at p<0.04 level) to be striving for a lower grade and also showed less desire to get a high grade than all the other groups.
This shows, quite clearly to me, that those doing the outcome visualization categorically did not believe they were going to get a high grade (to the point that they had lowered the grade they were aiming at by the time the exam rolled around). Whereas those visualizing studying well did believe.
And lo and behold, those who believed achieved better grades...and those who didn't believe, got lower grades (exactly as these teachings would predict).
To put it bluntly, those doing the "outcome visualization"...were not doing the common "self-help" teachings on visualization properly. They weren't following the formula.
Keep in mind, these were students taken just one week before an exam, and then asked to see themselves achieving a high grade. They may have been common C or B grade students. And they were really stretching themselves to believe they could get an A grade one week from now...a time when students are stressed and typically cram for exams because they don't know the material.
Look at @Alan Crabbe's comment, right below the question:
That's it, in a nutshell.
Visualization works because it changes your behavior. Ask any sports figure who uses visualization to improve their performance, and they will tell you they use visualization to perfect their technique, not to imagine themselves holding up the trophy (although they do sometimes do that to improve their motivation. But it still comes down to behavior).
Merely feeling good about what you want to accomplish is not enough. Practice makes perfect. Actually, perfect practice makes perfect, and visualization is the perfect tool to accelerate the process, because it allows you to mentally practice anywhere, at any time.
So the students who were visualizing doing well on the test, and then studying less, were missing the point. Feeling good does not replace practice and study. If there is a shortcut, it is this: people who are good at visualizing can accelerate the process of practicing their technique, because they are not bound by physical limitations during their visualizations.
To put it another way, if all you do is visualize holding up the trophy, all you will get better at is holding up a trophy.
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