Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Proteus Effect

Perception really is reality.

Your perception of the world around you, and of yourself, changes how you behave and the choices that you make. But interestingly, it isn't even necessarily how you perceive yourself, but your perception of how others think of you.

The book The Narcissism Epidemic (119) talked about this phenomenon and a study called the Daedalus Project that was done to test it:
One fascinating study randomly assigned people to an avatar in a virtual world. In the first experiment, some individuals were given attractive avatars and some unattractive avatars. The attractive avatars were more socially confident; they walked closer to the other avatar and talked about themselves more. In the second experiment, people were assigned either a short or tall avatar and completed a negotiation task. People with a tall avatar were more competitive in the negotiation. The researchers concluded that the type of avatars people use actually change social behavior in a virtual world, which they called the Proteus Effect.
It certainly helps to explain why people might enjoy these games so much - they can take on a persona that they believe others will like and respect based on skills and looks from the virtual world.

It also shows that you might be holding yourself back based on your perception of how you are viewed in the world. If you think others see you as weak in some area, then you are going to subconsciously make it so. All this leads down a spiral of never achieving as much as you could, and all because of a perception that may or may not be true.

As a way to help you gain confidence and try to extend yourself, try this method: How would [use a name of someone you think would do well at this project] do this? You might be surprised at what you can accomplish, and the gains in self confidence that this can produce. After all, if you can imagine yourself being down, you can also imagine yourself being up.

You might be better than you think - if only you had the confidence to try.

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1 comment:

theproteusexperiment said...

I actually use a similar technique to tap into my unrealized brainpower all the time. I've solved challenging technical & business problems this way. In effect, I've found I can become smarter by placing myself in the perspective of other people. I ask myself, "what would Mrs. Vice President do in this case," or, "how would Mr. Sr. Engineer tackle this problem?" The key is, these have to be real people you know fairly well. You can't just imaging you are Isaac Newton and expect to magically understand calculus. You have to know how this person thinks and operates, and you will suprise yourself what you can accomplish. It's a simple and easy technique to change your perspective and tap your potential. Try it and you might suprise yourself.