~ Alva Noë, "Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness"
How much of what you do is in response to things that are happening around you, your immediate environment? A couple of days ago, I was putting together a collage of colorful images of fruits, vegetables, and herbs for my Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover coaching class. One of the images was a picture of mint plants forming a bright green carpet. Later, when I went to get some tea for myself, guess what kind of tea I chose… That's right, I chose mint tea. So, how does our environment influence our daily actions and decisions?
Studies on habit formation reveal that as much as 45 percent of what we do every day is habitual, that is, we act almost without thinking usually because of subtle cues in our environment, such as "a specific location or time of day, a certain series of actions, particular moods, or the company of specific people." For example, you may experience the urge to check your e-mail if you feel stuck in your current task. Similarly, you may want to grab a cookie if you feel upset or bored.
On occasion, those cues in our environment can trick our minds into behaving in a way that is inconsistent with our goals and we may not even realize it. Here are a few examples of mind illusions related to the issue of portion control.
You may have heard that it is helpful to use smaller plates if you want to eat less. The following experiment illustrates this point. If you cut a sandwich into two same-size portions and you put one half of the sandwich on a small plate and the other half on a large plate, you will create an optical illusion. People will perceive the half-sandwich on the small plate as bigger than the half-sandwich on the large plate. Moreover, if they eat the half-sandwich on the small plate, they will feel fuller compared to eating the sandwich on the large plate. Thus, physical objects around you can affect your appetite.
The second example explains why all-you-can-eat buffets cause people to eat more. Researchers investigated how variety influenced consumers' quantity perceptions. "Does a bowl with both red and blue candies seem to have more or less than a bowl with only one color candy?" they asked. It turns out that we tend to underestimate portions if there is greater variety. People poured larger portions when there was variety of food without realizing it.
You don't even need to go to a magic show to experience the power of mind illusions in your daily life.
What triggers hide in your immediate environment? How can you eliminate or minimize those that sabotage your goals?