Dr. Alicia Crum: How Mindsets Affect Health and Behavior | The Power of Your Mind
Elevate Your Potential Magazine
Dr. Alia Crum explores scientific results that show the influence of the mindset on the body, and how changing the subjective mindset produced different outcomes. Her work is inspired in part by the placebo effect, and has implications that stretch far beyond the realm of medicine.
What Is A Mindset?
A mindset is quite literally a setting of the mind, it’s a lens or a frame of mind through which we view the world, we simplify, the infinite number of potential interpretations at any given moment. Now the ability to simplify our world through our mindsets is a natural part of being human.
Dr. Crum says that these mindsets are not inconsequential, and instead they play a dramatic role in determining our health and our well-being. While she was at Harvard, she had the opportunity to work with Professor Ellen Langer. She is a professor of psychology and when she heard that Crum was also a division one athlete, laughed at her.
The Placebo Effect
Professor Langer said, ‘You know, exercise is just a placebo, right?’ Crum was kind of offended because at the time she had been spending up to four hours a day training her body to be in optimal shape. But Langer did get her thinking about mindsets and how they might matter outside of medical walls.
Crum was getting fitter and stronger because of the time and the energy that she was putting into her training or was she getting fitter and stronger because she believed that she would? What about the other extreme? What if people were getting an extraordinary amount of exercise but weren’t aware of it, would they not receive the same benefit?
Dr. Crum Decides to Test the Placebo Effect
Crum decided to test this and to test this she found a really unique group of women — a group of 84 hotel housekeepers working in seven different hotels across the US. For these women — these women are on their feet all day long. They’re using a variety of muscles and they’re burning an extraordinary amount of calories just doing their job.
But what’s interesting is that these women don’t seem to view their work in this light. They were asked, ‘Do you exercise regularly?’ And two-thirds said NO. So Crum’s group said, ‘Okay. Well, so on a scale of 0 to 10, how much exercise you get?’ And a third of them said 0. ‘I get no exercise at all’. So Crum wondered what would happen if we could change their mindset.
So they took these women and split them into two groups. They measured them on a variety of things, including their weight, their blood pressure, their body fat, their satisfaction with their job. And then Crum’s group took half of them and we gave them a simple 15-minute presentation.
They were given a poster and told, ‘You know, your work is good exercise. It satisfies the Surgeon General’s requirements which are quite simply to accumulate about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. You should expect to receive those benefits.’
The Results of Dr. Crum’s Test
Crum’s group came back four weeks later and they measured them again. Not surprisingly, the groups that didn’t receive this information didn’t change, but those that did look different. They dropped weight, they had a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure, they dropped body fat and they reported liking their job more.
So what does this tell us? Well, to Dr. Crum, it was fascinating, that just as a result of a simple 15-minute presentation, the whole game changed, producing a cascade of effects on both their health and their well-being. Presumably without even changing behavior.
Source: TEDx Talks
- For more information, visit her online at: https://twitter.com/AliaCrum
About Dr. Alia Crum
She is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of the Mind & Body Lab (MBL), at Stanford University. Dr. Crum investigates the role of mindsets in affecting health behaviors and outcomes. Inspired by research on the placebo effect, her research was the first to reveal the physiological effects of mindset in core areas of behavioral health, including the benefits of exercise, the metabolic processing of nutrients, and the effects of stress.
She received her PhD from Yale University and BA degree from Harvard University where she was a student in Dr. Ellen Langer’s lab. Her research has won several awards including a Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, the William Harris Prize, and notoriety in several popular media including the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and in the The New York Times Magazine’s 2007 “Year in Ideas.”
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