by Jeisyn Murphy, PhD
Everyone knows that tomatoes are vegetables, bats are blind, and your toilet’s flush will change directions depending on which hemisphere you’re in, right? Wrong. Totally wrong. In fact, these are some common myths that are often repeated as facts. But if they are not facts, why do they persist in social consciousness? And a more interesting question, why does misinformation persist even when it has been corrected…in multiple times and various way?
One answer comes from a recent review of the available research on this topic which shows that it is easier for our brains to accept information than it is to reject it. The review goes on to show that in order for our brain to process incoming information, it must initially accept the information as true. Now I realize many of our healthily skeptic readers out there who can’t help themselves but to negate something outright before they think it over for themselves are saying “baloney” to this idea. And yet, time and again, experiments show that as a general rule, people retain misinformation over facts so much so that false beliefs may prevail over 50% of the time, despite attempts at correction.
The reason for this phenomenon, and the point of this post, is that when a correction is attempted, the method of correction usually repeats the misinformation which acts as a rehearsal for encoding the wrong information again! This becomes even more of a problem when the misinformation is emotionally charged. Why? Because people tend to accept information that supports their map of reality (a.k.a. worldview) and reject information that threatens it.
An interesting antidote to this kind of thought virus is to present the correct information in detail via a coherent storyline that supplies new data about how the misinformation was spread and gives relevant facts about how the original misinformation could not be accurate. An additional component of this method is adding in positive self-affirmations. Since a person’s identity tends to get wrapped up in what they believe, creating a way for people to feel good about themselves while they are unlearning the misinformation has proven to be effective. What does any of this have to do with self-improvement and coaching? How about everything!
When someone wants to make a change either in their behavior or their identity, they often meet with some resistance from the parts of themselves that want to maintain status quo (the hell we know seems better than the hell we don’t know). A certain amount of cognitive dissonance gets created when someone wants to quit smoking, lose weight, release beliefs that are no longer serving them or make a significant change to their environment or daily routine. Part of this resistance could be coming from psychological issues that need attention. Another likely possibility though, is that the resistance to change is coming from the person having to unlearn old information and relearn new data and ideas. The coaching methodology at Bright Mind (largely based on Neuro-Linguistic Programming), employes several techniques which naturally incorporate the antidote mentioned above.
For example in one pattern, known as Change Personal History, a person can use current resources and apply them back in time (metaphorically speaking) to a situation where they didn’t have access to those resources. A trained coach helps the client get into a resourceful state (akin to the self-affirmation part mentioned above) using a process called Anchoring and then identifies a key context in which the problem behavior or emotion occurs. This resourceful anchored state is used to “rewrite” the part of the client’s history by having them imagine how events would have turned out differently had they had the resources they have access to now, back then when they first learned how to respond to the problem context in an undesirable way. In doing this process, the client’s unconscious mind (which operates out of time and space) assists the client in coming up with new and useful ways of coping with the current problem state. It’s an elegant way to correct misinformation residing in the client’s map, freeing them to accept change and to behave in a way that is congruent with the best of who they are.
In other words, using the right NLP techniques, you can turn tomatoes back into fruit, make bats see, and even keep the waters flowing in the same direction, no matter where you are. Now that’s powerful!