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What are some cool psychological hacks?

This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Jenny ZW Li, PhD in Neuroscience and Biomedical Research.

One unique character of human brain is that it tends to put everything in context; be it an action, a consequence, a physical status, or even just a sentence. Then our positions are greatly affected by such contexts that are often conjured up with little ground.

Nevertheless, the kinds of contexts the mind associates can be either cool psychological hacks which “make a heaven of hell” or mental havoc that “make a hell of heaven” depending on one’s choice. The following common hacks can help focus on what's important and how to make the most of a situation using psychology.

1. Assume Good Intentions of Others:

Although more than often the precise motivations of others can not be pinpointed, for some reasons our minds often feel really sure about it. Many psychological studies have shown that for the exact same situation, one’s own contemplation of others’ intention could really affect the mentality.

For example, a well-known experiment conducted by Harvard researchers found that the same degree of physical pain feels more intense when inflicted on purpose: Pain is more intense when inflicted on purpose.

“Participants in a study who believed they were getting an electrical shock from another person on purpose, rather than accidentally, rated the shock as more painful than those receiving the same shock thinking it was an accident. Participants seemed to get used to shocks that were delivered unintentionally, but those given on purpose had a fresh sting every time.”

And the same rule extends to many other forms of pain/insult. In general, people tend to suffer much less and recover much faster from insults if they believe that the offender does not do it on purposes, or has some justified reasons.

For instance, next time when some seemingly reckless driver cuts across your way on the highway, try to come up with some compassionate reasons fro him/her. Then the road rage is much lighter and easier to deal with.

2. Focus On Quality/Value Rather Than Surroundings

Another trick that people often fall into is being distracted by the surroundings or the “attached values”, but forgetting the real value/quality itself.

For example, many psychological studies show that the same glass of wine could taste drastically different, if people think they are from different brands or with different prices. Of course, the more expensive, the better it is considered.

On the other hand, something’s value could also be significantly reduced without a fancy label or stage. That’s the primary reason why so many invaluable antiques are recovered from flea markets or a dusty attic.

Another well-known social experiment is how poorly an acclaimed violinist was received when he played on a subway platform in Washington, D.C., instead of the Carnegie hall: Did This Famous Violinist Really Play for Tips on a Subway Platform?

“A man sat at a metro station in Washington D.C. and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

"Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

"In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

“Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.”

So this really brings up a counter-hack for people to not get too obsessed by the “attached values” or the dazzling labels, and ignore the value itself:

Appreciate beautiful things as they are, trying to block unrelated noises as much as you can. And everyday life could be much better.

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