How can a mirror cause dramatic behavioral changes in kids?
In 1979, researchers Beaman, Klentz, Diener, and Svanum wrote a terrific piece of research involving Cooley’s Looking Glass Self, which basically points out that we are not independent individuals as we like to think. Instead, we’re a product of our surroundings, including how we think others think of us, and we act accordingly. For example, if I believe other people think of me as an entrepreneur, I’m more likely to act entrepreneurially so I can continue developing that positive judgment.
They made this practical using an experiment with children and Halloween. Since I know many of you are illiterate and only read blogs for information, I took the trouble of going through the literature for you. Remember these from college?
- They would ask the children their names and ages to evoke self-awareness, or “individuate” them (e.g., “I am Ramit Sethi” and the accompanying connotations of ‘I am a good person’).
- In one condition, a woman told the children to only take one piece of candy.
- In another condition, a mirror was placed conspicuously so children could see themselves as they reached into the candy bowl.
- In a final condition, they combined the “warning” and “mirror” conditions.
There is a lot more to it, and while the methodology is interesting, I’ll just cut to the results.
- BASELINE: With no mirror and no warning to take only one piece of candy from the bowl, 75% of children took more than 1 piece of candy. Ok, makes sense. It’s sitting there in front of you.
- VERBAL WARNING ONLY: When the experimenters warned children to take only 1 candy, that number dropped to 34.2%. Good job kids, listen to your elders.
- COMBINED EFFECT: When the researchers (1) warned the children to only take one candy, plus (2) put a mirror in front of them, that number dropped to 11.7%. Astonishing.
Why would a mirror produce such a big change in behavior?
What are some of the other ways you can apply this to yourself?
Do you know your actual earning potential?
Get started with the Earning Potential quiz. Get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.
Takes 3 min