Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer is a researcher who has published several important and provocative studies. In this study, she decided to look at whether our perception of how much exercise we are getting has any effect on how our bodies actually look. To do this, she studied hotel maids.
As any casual observer of the hospitality industry knows, hotel maids spend the majority of their days lugging heavy equipment around endless hallways. Basically, almost every moment of their working lives is spent engaged in some kind of physical activity.
But Langer found that most of these women don't see themselves as physically active. She did a survey and found that 67 percent reported they didn't exercise. More than one-third of those reported they didn't get any exercise at all.
What was even more bizarre, she says, was that, despite the fact all of the women in her study far exceeded the U.S. surgeon general's recommendation for daily exercise, the bodies of the women did not seem to benefit from their activity.
Langer and her team measured the maids' body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, weight and body mass index. They found that all of these indicators matched the maids' perceived amount of exercise, rather than their actual amount of exercise.
So Langer set about changing perceptions.
She divided 84 maids into two groups. With one group, researchers carefully went through each of the tasks they did each day, explaining how many calories those tasks burned. They were informed that the activity already met the surgeon general's definition of an active lifestyle.
The other group was given no information at all.
One month later, Langer and her team returned to take physical measurements of the women and were surprised by what they found. In the group that had been educated, there was a decrease in their systolic blood pressure, weight, and waist-to-hip ratio - and a 10 percent drop in blood pressure.The Point
What is your perception of your employees? What is your perception of your clients? Your family? Your friends? Politics? The economy?
Whatever your perception, you're right.