The importance of the third-person perspective

'Visualise yourself doing it' is a common slice of advice for people seeking to achieve something. But there are two ways of visualising yourself in a scene: from a 1st-person perspective as in real-life, or from an external, 3rd-person perspective, as an observer might see you. Now Lisa Libby (The Ohio State Univ.) and colleagues have demonstrated that it's this latter, 3rd-person perspective that is far more effective in raising the likelihood we will go on to perform a desired behaviour.
Here is the story - 146 undergrad participants, all of whom had registered to vote, were asked to imagine themselves going to the polling booth to vote the next day, in what were then the upcoming 2004 presidential elections. About half were instructed to do this from a 1st-person perspective, another half were told to do it from a 3rd-person perspective. At the end, 90% of the participants who'd imagined themselves voting from a 3rd-person perspective reported that they had indeed gone on to vote, compared with just 72% of the first-person perspective participants - a statistically significant difference.
The researchers said these findings extend prior work showing that we tend to interpret other people's actions as saying something about them, whereas we interpret our own actions as saying more about the situation we're in. So, when we picture ourselves acting in the 3rd-person, we see ourselves as an observer would, as the 'kind of person' who performs that behaviour. "Seeing oneself as the type of person who would engage in a desired behaviour increases the likelihood of engaging in that behaviour", the researchers said.


Peter Haslam said...

Excellent point and i love your visual analogy

Gina said...

interesting feature....isn't this basically what "the secret" and other positive image books that are so popular right now preaching....that is ...if you take time out to see yourself accomplish or have something...it helps that "dream" or "wish" come true?....

maybe there is some truth to this stuff after all?