#2. Hand Gestures Can Manipulate You
We previously pointed out that if you're right-handed, you instinctively prefer things that are on your right, and vice versa. The theory is that, while we think with our brains, we use our hands to interact with the world, so the thinking part of your brain gets tricked into liking things that happen to be within reach of the hand you prefer to use. Elsewhere, we mentioned that you're more likely to remember facts if you associate them with a hand gesture, which is probably why some people are so animated with their hands when trying to recount a story. But how far does this weird hand-brain connection go? Could, say, other people use hand gestures to manipulate you without you knowing it?
You already know that the answer is yes.
The universal sign for "Hey, dumbass, my fucking wine is almost gone. You piece of shit."
Let's say you're an eyewitness to a bank heist. The cops come up to you and ask you to describe the guy. The officer says, "Did he have a beard?" And he does that thing that some people do, gesturing at his own chin as if you somehow didn't know what a beard was and needed him to physically demonstrate. And in that moment you think, "Yeah ... I believe he did have a beard."
Guess what: That guy's hand gesture just programmed your memory.
The University of Hertfordshire did a series of tests where they interviewed participants about a video they had watched. While asking questions, the researchers deliberately made misleading gestures, like stroking their chin to suggest a beard or touching their wrist to indicate a watch. The test subjects were three times more likely to believe that the guy in the video had a beard if the interviewer pretended to stroke his nonexistent goatee while asking about it. These weren't mouth farts where you say "bearded" despite thinking "clean shaven," either. The gesture actually brainwashed the subjects into honestly believing that the guy had a beard.
And yes, when a politician or lawyer stands up and makes those hand gestures to drive home his point (pointing at the audience, slapping his palm with his fist), that totally works. There are detailed guides on what exactly you should be doing with your hands if you want the audience to buy what you're selling. That's why a president can't simply say, "I've got your cruise missile right here" -- he needs to actually gesture toward his crotch to get the full effect.
"No, it's important that you understand that I wish for you to literally go fuck yourself. Twice."
#1. Analyzing Your Thoughts Too Hard Can Change Your Opinions for the Worse
So you might read all of this and say, "See, this is why it's important to logically think through all of our opinions! It's because we make these dumb knee-jerk choices that we're so easy to manipulate."
OK, what if we told you that in many cases, thinking longer about a decision actually makes you more wrong?
"Hmmm. Maybe it was an inside job."
Have you ever gotten talked out of liking something? Maybe you saw The Dark Knight Rises in the theater and had a great time, but the next day you started talking to your movie connoisseur friends and they pointed out all of the plot holes ("When did Batman have time to paint his logo on the bridge?!"). Over time, it gets to where you can't even admit to yourself that you enjoyed it. Even when you think back to your experience in the theater, all you're thinking about is the plot holes.
You might convince yourself that thinking about the subject led you to the "right" opinion, but studies show that you can just as easily be steered from a correct opinion to a wrong one.
"After further consideration, I've decided that I will have sex with the vacuum cleaner."
Researchers tested this with a couple of experiments where subjects were asked to offer an opinion on things like which college course they preferred or which brand of jam tasted better. The catch was that some of the participants were asked to simply taste or sample the thing and move on, while others were asked to really think about their decision before making it official. The subjects who mulled over their opinions were way less in line with the opinions of experts than the others. The more they thought about it, the more wrong they became. How is this possible?
Well, when you're forced to think through or express why you like something, you're immediately biased toward opinions that you can actually explain or verbalize. In other words, you may taste five jams and decide that No. 4 just tasted better, because in that moment your senses were taking in a thousand different factors you weren't consciously thinking about. But when pressured to actually explain in detail which one you liked best, you're looking for easily quantifiable things -- suddenly you're talking about how No. 2 had more berries, or how No. 1 had better color. In reality, neither of those things actually affected your enjoyment. You're just trying to make it sound like you made your decision based on an easily explainable chain of logic when in reality your tongue had it right all along.
"Which one had the heroin in it, again? Because that one is definitely the best."
It's kind of like the example with the movie (if you hated The Dark Knight Rises, feel free to substitute any movie you changed your opinion on months later). While you were watching it, the sum of all of its parts may have swept you away, but if somebody made you create a list of pros and cons, you'd realize that you can't logically defend your choice. Or maybe you had a relationship with someone who you thought you were madly in love with, but a hundred conversations with friends changed your mind ("Yeah, I guess he did wear a lot of holiday-themed sweaters ...").
When forced to stick with qualities that are simpler and easier to discuss, suddenly the spell is broken. Congratulations, you have successfully used logic to kill your own enjoyment of something. Thanks a lot, brain.
For more ways we don't control anything about ourselves, check out 7 Things 'Good Parents' Do (That Screw Up Kids for Life) and 6 Insane Things Science Can Predict About You at Infancy.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn the best way to take back your life using guns, knives, and grenades.
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