Years ago a fascinating study was conducted where two groups of people were randomly assigned some rats. One group was told that their rats were “Maze-bright,” meaning that their rats had been bread to figure out how to get through mazes fast! The other group was told that their rats were “Maze-dull” and that they had just your standard, run-of-the-mill rats. Both groups of people were given 5 days to train their rats to get through a complicated maze. When the two groups of rats were then put to the test, the rats that were deemed “Maze-bright” made it through twice as fast as the “Maze-dull,” rats...despite the fact that there truly wasn’t such a thing as a maze-bright or maze-dull rat! Did the rats “fake it until they made it” or were they privy to what psychologists call the “expectancy effect?”
Tony takes a look at the article The Expectancy Effect: Improve Performance With This Human Behavior Quirk by Vanessa Van Edwards, national best-selling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People and a founder of the popular website Science of People. https://www.scienceofpeople.com/expectancy-effect/
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EP 225 Fake it til you make it-2020-09-29
[00:00:00] Coming up on today's episode of The Virtual Couch, I'm going to talk about whether or not you can, in fact, fake it until you make it. And more specifically, what effect does an expectation have on results? Should fake it until you make it be viewed more as believe it, until you become it. And what role do you, as a parent, coach, teacher or leader, have in projecting healthy expectations on people? You might have influence over that. And plenty more coming up on today's episode of The Virtual Couch.
[00:00:37] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 225 in the virtual couch, I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful habit coach, writer, speaker, husband, father of four, ultramarathon runner and creator of the Path Back and online pornography recovery program that is helping people reclaim their lives from the harmful effects of pornography. If you or anyone that you know is struggling to put pornography behind them once and for all, and trust me, it can be done in a strength based hold the shame, become the person you always wanted to be way, then please head over to path back recovery dotcom. And there you will find a short e-book that describes five common mistakes that people make when trying to put pornography behind them once and for all. Again, that's pathbackrecovery.com and I love getting your questions. I love getting comments. I love getting feedback. And you can send any of that to contact at Tony Overbay Dotcom or have you stopped by my website? Tony Overbay.com. There's a contact form. So fill that out and you can send me questions, comments if you would like to be a guest on the virtual couch, if you would like for me to be a guest on your podcast or come speak to your group or training or that sort of thing, please reach out again. Contact Tony Overbay Dotcom and please stop by Tony Overbay.com.
[00:01:49] Sign up to find out more about all kinds of fun, exciting things that are coming up. And because, drumroll, please, my friend Preston Buckmeier and I have completed the filming of our magnetic marriage course and you will be hearing about it soon, a lot more about it, because to say that I am excited about it would be an understatement. So please just go to Tony read. I sign up to find out more about all of the upcoming things because the warning this is a game changer. I know it is truly something I have worked so hard on to help people communicate more effectively with their spouses. So get ready and you can find me on Instagram, a virtual couch and on Facebook at Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist. And speaking of virtual couch, if you have not been there, my Instagram account, a virtual couch. I have some amazing people now working behind the scenes. I'm so grateful for that. And so we are taking quotes from episodes and posting those more on that virtual couch Instagram page. So please follow that account if you are so inclined. All right. Let's get to the topic today. Let me start out with the story. Quick story. In high school, I grew up in Sandy, Utah. I went to Alta High School and I was an athlete and I loved humor. I don't know if I would go as far as to say I tried to be a class clown, but I definitely loved to have fun in school.
[00:03:05] And I loved sports and I did my best at school. I had no idea what effect my dad was playing on my learning at that time, but I was a generally happy person. But I truly had no idea what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be when I grew up. And I also sought attention. I now know I wanted people to like me. I still want people to like me. And that led me to running for class office. I ran for and won. And this is so funny now to go back and think I'm not 100 percent sure what I want and what I lost. I believe I was my eighth grade class president. And then I moved up the high school. I think I was in ninth grade class president. I might have lost eighth grade and one ninth grade and thinking I had things figured out at that point, I believe I ran for 10th grade class president. I got greedy and I lost that one. And I remember being truly devastated, though, whenever I did lose. And again, maybe won eighth grade lost ninth. It's funny to think I can't quite remember that, but I do remember that I won student body class secretary my senior year and several of my friends, one student body office positions, and we had an amazing time. But I digress.
[00:04:10] One of the duties. So I believe I'm fairly confident now that it was ninth grade class president because I was in a student government class and one of the duties of the class officers was to do the morning announcements. And again, I went to a very large high school. I believe that it had around 3500 students, maybe more at the time, and the older class officers did the announcements. But one time I had to do a freshman specific announcement. So I went to the area in the library, did the announcement, and I was immediately given warm praise and holy cow, I was off for the next four years. I wanted to do the announcements every chance that I could, and I teamed up with a couple of my friends and we would do funny announcements. And even when I wasn't in student government, I believe I was a teacher's aide during the period where student government class was held. And there were plenty of times that I made my way over to the library when the announcements were happening so that I could be a part of the announcements because I really enjoyed the announcements. And part of why I enjoyed them so much is because I was told you're really good at doing the announcements. And then if we fast forward, I go to college. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to study and I chose mass communication and I advanced far in a speech competition.
[00:05:27] And these are all, again, because I was given this positive expectation that I was very good at giving announcements are very good at using my voice or saying things off the cuff and all of these things that I would hear and I really just embraced it, so it really was one of those I didn't know that I was so much faking it until I made it. Or was I believing it until I became it, it being a more comfortable public speaker and actually a true story in college. And this was a long time ago. So I initially went to school, tried to play some baseball out at Kansas State University. And while there I took a speech class. And this again, this was the late 80s, probably I think it was 1989. And the the class, the public speech class, we were just told to give a speech about something that we were passionate about and I did not prepare again. Thank you, ADD. In the last minute, I decided I would do something. I was passionate about eating breakfast. And so I did a presentation. I did a speech on the importance of eating breakfast. Now, the problem was there was no computer, there were computers. There wasn't I think the Internet was around because I remember when I transferred a year or two later to the University of Utah, that was the place where I first was given, I think, an email address.
[00:06:50] And I still had no idea what that would be helpful for. But at Kansas State University, I did not know how to research. And so research not necessarily being as easy to follow up on. I made up all of my data. I believe I made up or I might have heard that there was some Kellogg's Breakfast Institute. And so I made up all of my facts. I remember I had them on three by five cards and I did it just so that I would get a good grade in the class. But apparently this love of public speaking mixed with these amazing facts about the importance of eating breakfast that I had made up, allowed me to advance quite far in this speech competition at Kansas State University, even to the point where I worried that I would win the speech competition, because then you would travel on to some regional speech event. And at that point, I really did worry about this made up research getting the best of me. So thankfully, I didn't win the whole thing, but I placed very high. And to this day, it is still very important kids to eat breakfast to have a very successful day. But this belief that I could be a good public speaker did lead me to majoring, as I said, in mass communications, which eventually led me to taking a job in the computer industry where for a decade I literally spoke at trade shows all over the world.
[00:08:07] Literally, I presented in Russia and China, all over Europe, Japan many times and everywhere in the U.S. many times over. So I often do think that two things were at play. One, the positive expectation of others specifically and initially my student government adviser, Mr. Don Ward, a shout out to Mr. Ward led me to some positive experiences kind of in my psyche, and two then that led me to believe that I was a good public speaker. So I eventually became one. It was that believe until you become. So let's dive in. First, I want to talk about what Mr. Ward did for me along the lines of what many researchers call expectancy effects and to discuss and expectancy effect: I did a little bit of searching and I found a really cool article on a website that is I really enjoy as well. It's called The ScienceofPeople.com and I will have links to this in the show notes. But the article is called Expectancy Effect Improved Performance with this Human Behavior Quirk. And this is written by Vanessa Van Edwards, who is a national best selling author. And she's one of the founders at the website Science of People. And she wrote a book called Captivate the Science of Succeeding with People. So she says, I've asked, have you ever heard of the expectancy effect? She says, once upon a time, a pair of adventurous researchers had participants undergo a very unique experiment.
[00:09:26] They were told that they had to train rats to quickly make it through a maze. And here's the fun part. Half of the participants were told that they had these, quote, maze bright rats that carefully were bred to be highly adept at completing mazes. Imagine these rats there was in their DNA. They'd been the researcher or the participants have been told that they were good at completing mazes. So your job half of the participants were to take these maze bright rats and train them to get through this maze quickly. The other half were told that they had maze dull rats that had absolutely no training in completing mazes. These rats, for the most part, to sit around and watch TV and and read magazines. And so you were to take these rats, these Maze dull rats, and you were trying your best to see if you could motivate these dull rats to make it through this maze. So, again, half the group had these, in a completely fabricated "maze bright rats", and the other half had these "Maze dull rats". So the participants had five days to train the rats to complete the maze. And here's where my mind just goes crazy. Can you imagine having five days to train these Maze Brite or Maze dull rats? And you are not. A rat trainer by trade, I can't even imagine what I would do to train these rats, but I guess that's beside the point.
[00:10:43] So after those five days, the maze bright rats were able to complete their task twice as fast as Maseda rats let that sink in again. Maze Bright and Maze Dull Rats was completely fabricated. It was just what the people were told that were, quote, training the Maze Brite or Maze dull rats. So the maze bright rats were able to complete their task twice as fast as Maze dull rats. But of course there was a catch. There was absolutely no difference between the two groups of rats. Both sets of participants got randomly selected rats with absolutely no maze experience at all. You heard that right. The rats were exactly the same, but the participants who were told they had faster rats somehow helped the rats actually perform better. And this study has been repeated over and over again, and it is called the expectancy effect. So I wonder where your mind is going right now. Imagine if you, as a parent, if you have this expectancy effect in a positive way toward your kids or if you exhibit an expectancy effect in a more negative way. Are you looking at the glass as half full or is the glass half empty? And I know a lot of this and this is never meant to throw guilt or shame your way, but just to bring some nice awareness. So the expectancy effect is when someone expects a given result, that expectation unconsciously affects the outcome or report of the expected result.
[00:12:08] So I go back to this expectancy effect. And when it was when I was told that there was this expectation that I was that I would be this amazing public speaker, that I was a good public speaker again. Thank you, Mr. Ward. Thank you for some random seniors. I remember at the time that said, hey, Tony, you're pretty good at these announcements that led me to then, in effect, to train my Maze dull or Maise bright rat of a brain to get through that maze twice as fast, if you follow me. So when a participant expects to have a certain kind of outcome, they will, without realizing it, change their actions and behaviors to actually get this exact outcome. So as as the the author and I feel bad, I don't know the authors when I refer to them, but I'd love to call her Vanessa, as Vanessa says, that this concept gives us so much power because again, when participants were told they had made bright rats, they unconsciously change their training, they change their expectations, and they made the rats perform better. When participants were told they had made the rats, they unconsciously became worse teachers and didn't train the rats as well. And and she said dozens of studies have proven the expectancy effect outside of the lab with rats, dogs and humans alike. Now, Vanessa does a lot of training for businesses.
[00:13:23] So in the article she goes into how to use the expectancy effect in teams. But I have to tell you, and maybe this is a Freudian, but when I first looked at the header subject header and this next section of the article I saw, it is how to use this expectancy effect in teens. And so I think there's a lot of similarities. She says that you can improve or damage the performance of our teams, employees, colleagues, simply with the power of our own beliefs. So I believe this is one of those times where you need to check yourself. So she says if you believe someone will perform poorly, you make it almost impossible for them to to exceed your expectation. If you believe someone will perform well, then you set them up for success and make it easier for them to exceed your expectations. And this is one of the reasons why. Shameless plug. But it's for my free parenting course, parenting positively and even the not so positive of times, which you can get right on my home page at TonyOverbay.com. Why I love the nurtured heart approach because the nurture heart approach is absolutely not giving any charge to negative behavior and it is building inner wealth. It is not just saying good job, champ, but it's hey, I love the way that you I love the way that you help your siblings, because that shows me that you are a truly kind, compassionate person.
[00:14:39] So that is putting this expectancy effect in action. So if your teenager constantly hears I can't believe you did that or why did you do that? Or here's a life lesson that you need to know and they don't get to hear positive feedback or not just your teenager, your spouse, people that you work with, people that you interact with. If they are hearing these, I love the way you did that, because that shows me that you are a kind, caring person. Guess what's happening in the wiring of that brain. They're hearing you and there's some expectancy there. I am a kind person and that is what I love about the nurture heart approach. So she says Vanessa goes on to say, The single biggest mistake that leaders make is to assume the worst. And I understand that depending on one's private experiences, as they say, and acceptance and commitment therapy, depending on your own makeup, your own nature, nurture, birth, order, DNA, abandonment, rejection, all of those amazing things, that you will have a predisposition to be a bit more positive or a bit more negative. So I understand. That is this natural way that we respond, your primary emotion might be fear about things, and so I think it's just important to take a pause and recognize are you constantly projecting this message or sending this expectation that life is a very scary place and you better watch your back.
[00:15:54] I can think often of people that have been in my office, and one that comes to mind is someone that when they move to a new neighborhood, which was a I knew of the neighborhood, is a pretty safe neighborhood. They found themselves almost paralyzed, just going to walk around the neighborhood because they had grown up with this expectation, this projected expectation that life was scary and they needed to be very careful and instead of be careful. But life is an adventure and there's so much out there to be seen. So she said that the problem is that leaders and I think you could interject parents here as well. But she said the problem is that leaders often are brought in to fix problems. And I think that parents often look at everything as a life lesson that they must teach and fix in a sense. And so she said that that leaders are asked to lead, "low performing teams" at times or they're asked to train a group of inexperienced newbies or they're asked to fix a, "problem area of a business". And she said, if you want to be a truly incredible leader and again, I feel like you can put truly incredible spouse or truly incredible parent here or truly incredible coach or any of these things, you can't just think about solutions or ideas. You have to address your own expectations. So she says, how do you do that? What are your expectations? We're often not even aware of our own expectations.
[00:17:14] She goes on to go back to and the rat experiment participants were told explicitly that they had either Maze Brite or Maze dull rats. Do you view your kids as Maze Bright or Maze dull kids, or do you view the people that you are working with as maze Bright or maze dull employees or Maze, right. Or Maze dull people that you are coaching? She said this was an explicit expectation, but. But we have both explicit and implicit expectations driving us an explicit expectation is when something is directly stated and leaves no room for uncertainty. And an implicit expectation is when something is implied but not directly stated. So Vanessa goes on to say an example. She said, I have an explicit expectation that ice cream is tasty, but not very healthy, because I've been told this by both advertisers, the tasty part and my mom, the unhealthy part, she said. I also have an implicit expectation that ice cream sometimes can make her tummy hurt and that she may be lactose intolerant, she said. It's a silly example, but it gives you an idea of how we have expectations that are forced upon us and ones that we come up with ourselves. So here's what I love about taking an article like this that was put forth in hoping to train employees and let's work some family dynamics in here. So she said, I want you to identify both your implicit and explicit expectations and the important areas of your life.
[00:18:37] She said, for example, if you are on a work team. So right now I want you to even picture or think about your family or being a parent. What were you told about that? She says the team in the beginning. So for the sake of the exercise, I'm suggesting, what were you told about parenting in the beginning? So were you told it's going to be hard? It's going to be difficult. There's going to be many ups and downs, all of those things, which could very well be true. But what were you told about parenting in the beginning? And then what do people say about parenting? And how is your how do you hear parenting described by others, by your parents, by those around you? She said these are your explicit expectations. And she suggested you take a sheet of paper and write down everything that you can think of. And she said that if you're on a creative team, you might have bullets such as this, I was told is in bold. So I was told, let's say that parenting would be difficult. I heard that parenting can be one of the most difficult things of the hardest things in your life. Or do you ever hear people say parenting will be one of the most rewarding things that you will take on in your life? Or you could put the same thing around marriage? Marriage is, but here are your explicit expectations.
[00:19:48] And do you have negative explicit expectations or do you have positive explicit expectations? And so now we're starting to get into that realm of fake it until you make it or believe it until you become it. So so take a quick look at what are your explicit expectations around parenting, around marriage, around hard work, around intimacy, around communication. And do we often focus just on those negative, explicit expectations, even if at times we're also told or hear of the positive, explicit expectations? So she's OK, she said it's now let's identify your implicit expectations and beliefs and these are harder to identify. So you really do have to dig deep. What expectations do you have? She and again, in the business realm, she said, what ideas have you formed while working? With your team or what have you learned or what assumptions do you have? And so you said you might if you look at this creative team again, you might notice that you expect greatness from the team, but you notice hurt feelings when things need to get done quickly or you've learned to hoard your ideas lest they be stolen, or you make this assumption that people will do great work, but you might not always get the credit. So you can, again, have these you can have these explicit expectations about parenting, marriage, communication, that it can be hard work.
[00:21:07] But what about the times where you hear that it can be rewarding and then you might have these implicit expectations that you can't share your most intimate ideas because they might not be treated kindly or you might have an implicit belief that you can't be vulnerable or that you have an implicit belief that if you are just being positive, that your child will never take accountability for anything. And so she talks about how important implicit beliefs are incredibly important because they start to dictate your future. So you may have had a bad experience that caused you to form an expectation. And so what often can happen is that means that one bad experience actually is setting a precedent instead of staying is more of a stand alone incident. And again, this could be good or it can be bad if you expect she goes back to the business world. If you expect the team to be cutthroat, then you will be looking for that behavior and even maybe unintentionally driving it. But if you think that your team is great, then they are more likely to be great. What are your explicit ideas around parenting or marriage and what are your implicit beliefs or ideas about parenting or marriage? And which ones are you following? Are you now then taking those one off experiences or even some bad experiences that you've had growing up? And are you making those into an expectation or are you just being aware of those, noting those, setting those over to the side and then trying to find those implicit beliefs that you can be an incredible parent or that parenting can be this rewarding thing or that vulnerability can be a wonderful idea to put forth to your family.
[00:22:47] So positive. And that leads to positive or negative expectations, he said. Now it's time to identify which of your expectations serve you, which ones damage you. So go through that list again of explicit and implicit beliefs and circle the positive ones and underline the negative ones and try to build on that positive list as much as possible. So I hope you get the vibe. If you listen to some of my previous podcasts where I talk about I understand that it is not as easy as just removing this negative belief and placing a positive belief in its place, because if you don't believe the positive belief, then you're actually going to feel a little bit worse because you can't quite keep up this. I know I'm just supposed to be positive. I know I'm just supposed to think of this differently. So what I love about this implicit or explicit exercise is that you're identifying that we all have several implicit ideas or implicit directives, and we also have several or we have these implicit expectations.
[00:23:38] We all have a variety of implicit expectations, but we also have a lot of these explicit expectations and they can be both for negative and positive. So I want you to identify negative and positive traits of these beliefs or these ideas and then circle the ones that that really do you well and circle the ones that serve you and and not the ones that damage you. Let's dig a little deeper. So as you build upon that positive list, can you add more detail, more examples, more stories? And Vanessa goes on to say, you want to leverage the positive expectations because these will turn into even more positive outcomes. But I love the concept of leveraging positive expectations, not saying that you are a bad person. If you have some if you if these negative expectations keep coming to mind, we recognize them. We note them, then we can even invite those negative expectations to come along for the ride. But we want to leverage those positive expectations because those in turn will lead to more positive outcomes than negative ones. They need a different process. So she encourages you to pull out the negative expectations, put them on a new piece of paper, one by one. And she talked about an example in this creative world where there might be feelings getting hurt when things need to get done quickly or that ideas can be stolen or I have to fight to get the credit I deserve.
[00:24:54] So we're acknowledging those, but put them over on another piece of paper or note them and invite them to come along for the ride. And so I believe that this is one of those concepts that can really help frame this, fake it until you make it or believe it until you become it. I highly recommend that you follow the link in the show notes to this article on expectancy effects, because it really does go even deeper in ways to put this into practice. And again, she does it more in a sales team or a collaborative environment. But I believe the same expectations or concepts happen in life. And so I want to just address that very quickly and then I'll wrap things up. But the fake it until you make it, if you google "believe it till you become it", or can you really fake it till you make it or you're going to find a lot of things in psychotherapy, a lot of articles that talk about that, we often feel less than when we do try to fake it until you make it. And I believe this goes so in line with acceptance and commitment therapy, primarily that concept of a socially compliant goal. So if we are trying to fake it until we make something that we don't really feel aligns with our values, then our motivation becomes weak and ineffective because it goes against our sense of who we really are or things that we want to do.
[00:26:14] My wife and I were on a walk this weekend. I think this is a good example of this. And she's in a position. I guess we're both in this position where we have an opportunity to connect with other people for a church assignment. And maybe, let's say that someone in a position of authority over us says, hey, in order to get the word out about some particular event that's coming up, you just need to get on the phone and just hammer away, call these people every day and get this message across. And how does that feel? If you're hearing this right now, if it feels like I don't want to do that, then that goes against some core value or sense of self. Now, for someone else, they may love that. They may love getting on the phone and and calling people daily is a reminder or really trying to motivate people with this. I'm going to I'm going to keep calling them until they really understand why I'm so passionate about something. But if you are not someone that is in your core values or core beliefs system stuff to continually call someone if you are coming from this place of their adults, if I let them know about something, I know that if someone was calling me on a daily basis, it probably wouldn't motivate me.
[00:27:18] Then telling you that you need to do that is not going to be something that is in line with your core value. You will not be able to fake that until you make that. So I think that's a really key concept, is that it still needs to be something that is in line with one of your core values or beliefs. Yes, there's a point where people would can benefit by being pushed a little bit or maybe a little bit of a little bit of traction on the road, a little bit of ground under your bike tires, so to speak. But that still has to be something that you are that is in line with something that you want to accomplish or something that you believe. And because if not, that's when we start to feel like what's wrong with me? What's wrong with me, that I don't want to get on the phone and call someone every day. Nothing's wrong with you. That's kind of part of your internal belief system, because, again, in the world of socially compliant goals, if you are trying to do something that does not go, it doesn't line up to one of your values or one of something that's very you're very passionate about, then you tend to find other things to do instead.
[00:28:19] That is this world that's called experiential avoidance. That's where I don't really want to do it, because it's it's uncomfortable for me and not just uncomfortable because I don't want to do it, but I'm comfortable because I don't believe that is the way that I am motivated or the way that I can motivate others. So I'll do it tomorrow. Right now, I will watch another Netflix series. I'll play more video games. And welcome to the world of experiential avoidance. So when we can do something that is more in line with our values, our goals, and it does not become a socially complacent goal, then we are more motivated to act. We feel better about ourselves and we're able to tackle so much more in our day because that desire for experiential avoidance can be eliminated. But yet, I digress. That is a topic for another day. I've done previous episodes on that as well. Just go on my website and look for anything that has acceptance and commitment therapy as one of the tag, the keywords. So there you go. Can you fake it until you make it or do you believe it? Until you become it? You can, but it needs to be in line with one of your values or a value based goal.
[00:29:15] And more importantly, is taking a look at that expectancy effect. What are the expectations that we put on other people and what are the expectations that we feel but the expectations that we project on to other people? Are we looking at our the our families? Are we looking at our kids or are we looking at our spouses? Maze dull or these maze savvy, these maze smart, these Maze bright rats that we now can do our best to train to get through that maze twice as fast as if we viewed them as Maze dull rats. I don't think I've ever summed up a podcast by saying, Do you think your kids are smart? Rats are not so smart rats. Let's go with the smart rats.
[00:29:53] All right. Have an amazing week. And I look forward to talking to you next time on the virtual couch.