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Power of Suggestion: Examples, Experiment & Definition

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  • 0:05 Suggesting a Strawberry
  • 0:43 The Human Imagination
  • 1:27 Turning a Suggestion…
  • 2:02 The Role of Vividness…
  • 2:45 The Role of Salience…
  • 3:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Orin Davis
We've all heard of the 'power of suggestion,' but what does it mean? In this lesson, you'll learn how we use our imaginations to make realities out of the ideas that are presented to us, which in turn causes us to change our behavior.

Suggesting a Strawberry

Imagine a nice, plump, ripe red strawberry. Think about how sweet it would taste, the spurt of juice dribbling over your tongue, and the textured surface nuzzling your palate.

At this point, you are probably hankering for a strawberry, if not outright salivating at the thought (unless you happen to hate strawberries). How could two simple sentences get you to want a strawberry and perhaps even make your mouth water? This is the power of suggestion.

The power of suggestion isn't just for imagining good food, though. Psychologists sometimes actually harness the power of suggestion to give people ideas they can use to change their behavior.

The Human Imagination

Human beings have incredible imaginations, but they also have the potential to turn those imaginings into reality. When we get ready to put food in our mouths, our bodies start preparing to digest food. So, by imagining that we are going to eat something, we start responding in the same way as if we are actually going to eat something. When someone suggests the possibility that could happen, we tend to imagine what that possibility would be like, and our bodies may start preparing for that possibility becoming a reality. If someone talks about feeling tired and wanting to sit down, we can sense how that might feel in our imaginations, and think about how we might feel if we were tired, and find ourselves having a similar desire to find a comfortable chair.

Turning a Suggestion Into a Reality

In some cases, we can even make those ideas actual realities. If you imagine that your right arm is trying to lift a big bucket of water, you might discover that it is actually hard to lift your arm. Go ahead; try it!

For some of you, your arm felt really heavy. For others, the exercise seemed silly, and you lifted your hand right up. For still others, you tried imagining the bucket but couldn't quite feel the heaviness of it and felt somewhat confused. This is because each person has a different level of suggestibility, which is the capacity to turn suggestions into reality.

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