Psychology has a number of interesting applications. It can be used to alter perceptions, turn enemies into friends, and even make people ignore a man in a gorilla suit. Many individuals are first attracted to the field of psychology by the impact these incredible phenomena have on themselves and those around them. Let’s explore some of the most significant studies and findings in the field of psychology and see how they fit into everyday life. 

If you’re intrigued by how these scientific studies, hypotheses, and effects can improve your daily life, you can apply this passion to a career studying and improving the lives of others. The University of Texas Permian Basin offers an online program that allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology on their own time, at their own pace. The study of the mind is an incredible pursuit, and it begins with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

The Ben Franklin Effect

Ben Franklin was using psychology to turn political opponents into trusted allies back in the 1700s. In his autobiography, Ben Franklin tells the story of winning over an adversary who had delivered an impassioned speech against him. Knowing that this gentleman could one day hold substantial political power, Franklin responded in an unconventional manner: He asked to borrow a book. Specifically, he asked to borrow a rare book in a way that both flattered and inconvenienced his adversary. The adversary promptly sent the book, and Franklin returned it with a thank-you note. From that day forward, the “adversary” was far more willing to help Franklin, and the two become lifelong friends.

According to Ben Franklin, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Another name for this phenomenon? Cognitive dissonance. Essentially, someone who dislikes you can’t mentally process why they would allow themselves to be inconvenienced by you. To avoid discomfort, they will change their opinion of you rather than their opinion of themselves. When employing the Ben Franklin Effect in real life, remember to always use this superpower for good.

The Somatic Marker Hypothesis

“Elliot” had it all: a good job, a happy marriage, and the respect of his peers—until one day he started having headaches. The headaches became more severe, and it was later discovered that Elliot had a brain tumor. The tumor was removed, but not before it damaged the frontal lobe of his brain. Elliot began to look at every situation in his life through a purely logical lens devoid of all emotion—the dream of every procrastinator. The problem is that Elliot had effectively undergone a lobotomy, and his life crumbled soon after.

What can be learned from Elliot’s tragedy? The study of Elliot led to the somatic marker hypothesis, which proposes that emotions, not logic, are the driving force behind decision-making. When making decisions, you filter out choices based on how you feel about the imagined outcome. The next time you’re unable to find the motivation to work, clean, or create, consider why you imagine those possibilities being unpleasant. If you can be honest with yourself, you may arrive at the right decision.

The Halo Effect

In one of the most famous examples of how psychology relates to everyday life, Richard Nisbett and Timothy Wilson set out to study the halo effect, a cognitive bias that occurs when first impressions cloud a person’s perception of others. Over one hundred college students were asked to review footage of a psychology instructor. In some videos, the instructor was friendly and encouraging, while in others the instructor was cold and unlikable. Students were then asked to rate the instructor’s appearance, mannerisms, and accent. The results showed that even when participants had enough information to make an independent assessment, they were influenced by the instructor’s attributes. Students who saw the “likable” instructor rated his appearance, mannerisms, and even his accent higher. Furthermore, students were unaware that their perception of the instructor had any effect on their ratings.

The halo effect can be summed up as judging a book by its cover. When we meet others, we unconsciously allow their attractive features to influence our overall opinion of them. This presents a prime opportunity to use psychology in your daily life. When meeting new people, always try to make a good first impression by displaying confidence, being well-groomed, and not mentioning negative details about yourself. Being aware of the halo effect can also allow you to take a step back from situations and consider if your opinions are being influenced by anything other than logic.

The Invisible Gorilla

How well do you multitask? To put your multitasking skills to the test, watch this video and count how many times the players wearing white pass the ball. The answer is 16, but that’s not what the video is testing. Did you notice the gorilla? If you did, it might have been because you were expecting it, as the original selection attention test involving a gorilla is world-famous.

Did you notice the curtain change or the player on the black team leave the game?

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t. When Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons expanded on their original experiment, the majority of participants failed to notice one or both of the unexpected events. What this study shows is that people can focus so hard on one task that they fail to notice other important details. According to Simons, “Although people do still try to rationalize why they missed the gorilla, it’s hard to explain such a failure of awareness without confronting the possibility that we are aware of far less of our world than we think.”

Similar to the halo effect, our expectations can alter our perception of reality. The lesson here isn’t that people don’t pay enough attention or that we shouldn’t multitask; it’s that people can be led astray when relying solely on their intuition. How can you use this in your everyday life? Intuition is great for things like deciding what to order for dinner, but for decisions that require an analytical approach, you’re better off giving yourself enough time to react and consider the things that matter rather than relying exclusively on your gut. 

Learn more about UT Permian Basin’s online BA in psychology program.