Apply these little-known techniques that can help you change your behavior and increase your productivity.

More pronounced than physical stimuli, our genetic makeup unequivocally influences how we look and act. If two tall people have a baby, the kid will probably be tall. That much is clear. But sometimes, genetic influences take a less obvious route.

In a study conducted in 2015, economist Pascual Restrepo determined that Western-Canadian NHL players whose families lived further away from settlements first established “more than 100 kilometers away from an RCMP outpost” were more likely to have a higher number of penalty minutes at season’s end. This aggression was fostered through generations of violence, as citizens living in rural communities did not have a reliable police force to protect them. The Edmonton Journal added:

“Those who were born further away from an RCMP outpost, on average, took 24 seconds more penalties per game. That adds up to about 100 additional penalty minutes during a typical career.”

Indeed, some people are predisposed to act a certain way. But what about unpredictable, supposedly irrelevant environmental stimuli? These are the action-influencing conditions that do not necessarily depend on your ancestry.

Adjusting behavior, the freshmen fifteen, and competitiveness

Take, for instance, a fascinating study done in 2006. Two researchers “examined the effect of an image of a pair of eyes on contributions to an honesty box used to collect money for drinks in a university coffee room”. What they found is that people paid three times as much money for coffee when the eyes were displayed compared to a control image.

The implications of this are far-reaching. Speaking broadly, humans adjust behavior when they think they’re being watched. Humans inexorably adjust to societal expectations. They do what they think is expected of them. For instance, if business owners want to triple tip-jar revenues, all they have to do is tape on an image of eyes. An innocuous pun should probably accompany the picture, otherwise, it might be a little jarring.

Another study, highlighting the idea of altered behavior when with others, discovered that people who eat with one other person eat 36% more calories compared to eating alone and that people who eat with seven or more people eat 97% more calories. This may explain the infamous freshman fifteen. Meal halls across the country facilitate multi-person meals, with most first-years eating with friends at almost every meal.

Perhaps even more impressive is research carried out in 2012 on a psychological/anthropological concept called material priming. Researchers found that:

“Exposure to objects common to the domain of business (e.g., boardroom tables and briefcases) increased the cognitive accessibility of the construct of competition”

Basically, things that are regarded as business-like, such as money, briefcases, or boardroom tables, will register with your subconscious and make you more competitive.

So, if you want to boost your GPA or increase your chances of a raise, surround your subconscious with positively-priming material objects.

A good start would be to change the background of your phone from that cliché iPhone stock picture of Earth to – for example – a stack of money. Consequently, you may spend less time procrastinating. If you study in your room, a poster of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off might influence you to skip class more while a portrait of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime may motivate you to make some much-needed gains.

Considering the effects

Arbitrary genetic characteristics and environmental stimuli have the ability to determine our actions and shape our decisions. Evidently, the perspective that, for the most part, humans act independently of random environmental factors is seriously flawed. It’s important to be wary of these effects so that we can mitigate the negative repercussions and avoid unwanted capriciousness.

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