59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot Paperback – Unabridged, 3 Jul 2009
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About the Author
Richard Wiseman is Britain’s only professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology and is the author of the bestselling Quirkology. He is the psychologist most frequently quoted by the British media.
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Looking at ‘Happiness’ first, surely there is nothing wrong with using activities which both help the students learn and make them happier into the bargain? On p. 20 we are introduced to a rather unusual diary writing task, in which students are asked to think back to great times in their past, reflect of the many things they can be grateful for, and imagine fabulous times in the future. Putting things into perspective and creating a healthy ‘narrative’ about your life has been found to make people considerably happier.
The section on ‘Happiness’ contains some amazing, ready-to-use activities for the classroom. In a task which would warm the hearts of all humanist educators (p. 30), psychologists got groups of children to write nice things about each other and present their classmate with their ‘plateful of praise’. Not only does this contribute to overall feelings of wellbeing, it has the additional advantage of boosting class cohesion.
There are implications for teachers in almost all chapters. In the one on ‘Persuasion’, Wiseman quotes a study in which four charity boxes were placed in large stores (p. 70). Each one bore a different message. The most successful one was ‘Every penny helps’ (62% of all takings!) Researchers thought that people often refrained from giving as they thought their contribution would not make a difference and the message countered this. Could it be that our students feel the same? I believe that cultivating an ‘every little helps’ attitude can legitimise the small steps towards learning our students might otherwise not take.
‘Liking’ is of course a crucial component of persuasion. On p. 52 Wiseman reminds us of the advice of Dale Carnegie: ‘to increase your popularity, just express a genuine interest in others’ (funnily enough, it does not have to be genuine; if we keep on faking it, the ‘genuineness’ comes later!) This is a good reminder for us that so-called ‘humanistic’ activities are not just for the learners; students do appreciate it if we find out things about them and we take the trouble to ask them how their sick dog is doing...
And speaking of ‘Liking’, here is an amazing discovery (p. 177) – people bond more readily when they share negative attitudes than when they share positive ones! So next time your students heap insults on the referee who awarded that penalty against the national team, do not forget to chip in with a couple of adjectives yourself... :-)
This was such a great read! It came recommended by a friend, and I’m so glad she did because otherwise I would have never picked up something even loosely classified as a self-help book. The truth is, it really isn’t and I surely didn’t treat as one. It’s an easy, engaging and funny collection of examples on how some more or less established psychological phenomenon can help you in everyday life. Whenever you say psychology people tend to think of abnormal psychology, psychotherapy and all that jazz, but these everyday facts are what I absolutely love the most. I highly recommend it to whoever enjoys easy cognitive psychology and is perhaps looking for useful tricks to change small things in their approach to life
However I felt it was more of a dipping into book than reading from cover to cover - although I did read it from cover to cover, by about half way through for some reason I was getting a bit bored with it.
I know he says all of these results come from scientific research, but you can't help feeling some are more researched than others - a number feel very lightweight and "outliers" - maybe true in some circumstances, but not as generally applicable as is being claimed.
I think he was running out of material towards the end as he starts to quote from his earlier books, maybe an advert for them?
On the whole I enjoyed it, it is worth reading.