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5 Psychological Studies That Teach How to Blog Better

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1. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: How positive beliefs and expectations lead to positive outcomes.  

The Study: Imagine yourself to be a school teacher who has recently joined a school and is given the responsibility to teach two different fourth grade classes. Students in both these classes have similar aptitude and abilities to learn and perform.

However, you are told by a fellow teacher that while the students of the first class are extremely bright and cheerful, the students of the second class are not so smart and quite dull.

How will this information influence your behaviour towards the students of these two classes?

You may say that you will not get influenced at all and will behave similarly in both the classes. But several experiments have been conducted and it has been proved, time after time, that when you start believing in something, you create a reality to match that belief.

In other words, in the given scenario, you will end up paying more attention to the students of the first class and less attention and value to those of the second class. As a result, the students of the first class will actually start performing well whereas the students of the second class will display a decline in their academic performance and class participation.

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The experiment I discussed above was conducted by Harvard professor Dr Robert Rosenthal in the 1950s and was the first one to prove the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy – when you expect something to come true, you end up making it come true.

Similar experiments have also been conducted in organisations. When a manager genuinely believes in an employee, he is more likely to invest his time and efforts in grooming and developing that person, as opposed to some other employee who the manager does not seem to have very high expectations from. As a result of the additional time and efforts invested by the manager in the first employee, the latter starts to actually perform better than the other one, who didn’t get equal attention and value.

What you need to learn from this experiment: Have high expectations from yourself and start believing in your own success to blog better. Constantly remind yourself that your blog has something interesting, valuable and fun to offer to the world and it will get the appreciation and recognition it deserves.

Only positive thoughts can attract positive outcomes. Right from writing with all your heart to marketing your blog out there, have a strong belief in your story and you are likely to receive the response you want to see.

The second lesson to learn here is that the kind of people you surround yourself with have a lot of impact on your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and therefore, outcomes.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you, encourage you and have high expectations from you. On the other hand, let go of those who poison your spirit and dull your shine. Such people will invariably not let you succeed.

2. Overjustification: How rewards can sometimes backfire 

The Study: It is commonly believed that people get motivated when they see a tangible reward coming their way for doing something or behaving in a certain manner. And in case the person is unable to comply, they can very well expect a punishment or a disadvantage coming their way.

Our education system is built around this model- students who score well get rewarded with laurels, medals, highly-rewarding careers and so on, whereas those who score less are “punished” with average grades, average degrees and average jobs. If this is how the world functions, then every time a person sees a tangible reward, they should feel motivated to grab it.

But can rewards ever demotivate a person?

To study the possibility of this relationship, two psychologists from Stanford and Michigan universities got together to study the impact of rewards on pre-schoolers for doing an activity that they were already fond of- drawing.

The bunch of kids selected for this study were divided into three groups: Group A kids were told about a reward which they will be getting upon completing the drawing activity, Group B kids were not told but were surprised with a reward upon completion of the drawing activity, and Group C kids were neither told about nor given any rewards for taking part in the drawing activity.

After the activity got over, the psychologists continued to observe the behaviour of the pre-schoolers and noticed a pattern- kids from group A, who received a reward for participating in the drawing activity, spent the least time drawing in the next few days. On the other hand, those from group B and group C continued to find pleasure in drawing and spent a lot of time scribbling in the next few days. It was also noted that kids from group A drew the least aesthetic drawings among all kids.

The results of the study may have confused you but the answer lies in a very simple yet important word – motivation.

We are either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to do a thing. When we are intrinsically motivated, we do something because we find pleasure out of doing that thing.

When we are extrinsically motivated to do something, we do it because we are getting some external reward like a certificate or money for doing that thing.

All the kids who took part in the drawing activity were intrinsically motivated to draw. But when group A kids were given a reward for participating in the activity, it suddenly seemed that they were drawing for getting the reward. This provided too much justification for what they were doing and hence, post-completion of the activity, they drew the least amongst all three groups.

Also, kids are typically rewarded by their parents or guardians for eating their food properly and doing their homework, which are not considered by them as fun activities, rather they perceive them as boring and painful activities.

Similarly, upon getting rewarded for drawing, they started perceiving it as another dull and boring activity which they have to do in order to get a reward. Hence, their intrinsic motivation to draw reduced.

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What you need to learn from this experiment: Yes, you blog because you want to be rich, famous, powerful, achieve a thought-leadership status, look cool among your friends and a variety of other reasons that mean a lot to you.

But you started blogging in the first place because you naturally enjoy it.

The moment you start over justifying to yourself the need to blog in order to achieve the “rewards” mentioned above, you will start finding blogging boring, task-like, and tedious and not so much fun. You will end up avoiding or procrastinating it. I

f you decide to simply blog better because you love it and it gives you pleasure, you will be more likely to do it well and in the process, achieve the rewards you are seeking from this activity.

3. Propinquity Effect- What happens when you are over-exposed to something.

The Study: Why do we feel so attached to people we meet and talk too often, almost on a daily basis?

These people could be your colleagues in the office you share the cubicle with, your next-door neighbours, friends you meet every day and a sibling you share the room with.

The answer lies in propinquity or proximity: the more you encounter someone, the more likely you are to form friendships or relationships with that person. In an experiment conducted in 1972, two groups of students underwent nine hours of sensitivity training.

As people shared their individual experiences with the group during the training, the students got to know and understand each other better and started bonding well.

At the end of the training, the students were asked to rate the other students who also underwent the same training and it was found that students rated their own group members much higher that they rated members from the other group.

This is propinquity effect coming into play in a classroom setting.

At an organisational level, we build relations with people we encounter more often, such as project team members, direct reports, people we sit next to.  

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What you need to learn from this experiment: The experiment discussed above seems pretty obvious and straight-forward. So what’s in it for you? Well, to answer that, I want you to consider the following two scenarios:

  1. You blog about something and expect people to read it, share it and follow it.
  2. You blog about something and then push people to read it by sharing it on every social media account possible, promote it in bloggers’ groups, share the link via emails, and basically do everything possible to get your blog out and noticed and talked about.

In which scenario, will you have a higher chance of getting more views, likes, comments, shares and revenues? Naturally, the second one.

The more you expose people to your blog, the more they will view it and get attached to it.

Do not shy away from promoting your blog; it is an outcome of your hard work and talent. Rather, promote it shamelessly and you will see the results for yourself.

Don’t forget, there are thousands out there blog better and are aiming for the exact same things that you are eyeing. Unless you build that connection with your readers, you can’t win this game.

4. Endowment Effect: Why you value something that you own more than something that you don’t.

The Study: Given a choice, what would you value more- something which you already own or something that you are considering owning?

According to a study conducted by Daniel Kanheman, the famous behavioural economist, a group of people who owned a certain mug and a group which was planning to buy the same mug were both asked to value it. The former group valued it at $20, whereas the latter valued it at $10. This experiment clearly demonstrated that when we own something, we value that commodity more than someone who doesn’t own it.

This happens because after owning something, you establish a property right on that object, which further increases your subjective value for that object.

On the other hand, those who do not own an object do not establish any such property rights on it and hence, do not consider it to be of so much value.

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What you need to learn from this experiment: You might be wondering, “why am I reading about this experiment and what has it got to do with my blog?”.

Well, the lesson to be learnt here is that if you involve your readers enough, so that they start believing that they are not mere readers, they are owners of the blog, they will start valuing your blog more.

And how can you involve your readers so much? Listen to them. Ask for feedback and follow it. And then tell them that you followed it. Ask for contributions and include it in your blog.

Acknowledge their time to go through your posts by replying to their comments, sending them personalised notes; have a newsletter maybe. Do everything you can to make them feel you value them and soon they will start valuing your blog enough to call it their own.

5. Self-Censorship: Why you decide against publishing a blog post you had spent a lot of time and effort on.

The Study: Imagine spending a lot of time to research for a blog post, then spending countless hours to write, add another one or two for proof-reading it until you think it is ready to be published.

Except that when you are about to hit the publish button, a strange feeling of discomfort sets inside you.

You are unsure about how your blog will be perceived by your readers. You either decide to not publish it immediately and save it as a draft or you simply delete the whole blog post itself without giving it the chance to be read, discovered and appreciated by the world.

Sounds too familiar?

A study was conducted by two researchers at Facebook who tracked the activity of 3.1 million Facebook users over a period of 17 days. The study revealed that at least 71% of people typed out a status or a comment on a post but then decided to not publish it.

Feeling better that you’re not alone who exhibits such a behaviour? The importance question to ask here is what compels people to behave this way.

Well, for one, the author may not be confident enough about their content and therefore, decide to delete it instead of publishing it as the latter may ignite negative comments from the readers.

Another reason could be that the author may be uncomfortable in revealing their thoughts to the world because they are afraid of getting judged by others.

Finally, the author may not want to publish something they have written because they are not sure of who their audience is and so decide against posting something that may not be relevant to those who will receive it.

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What you need to learn from this experiment: The take-away from this psychological experiment is that you should invest time in identifying who your readers are so that you know exactly what they will appreciate and how they can be engaged.

The second important lesson to learn here is that you must take actions to feel more confident about what you write in your blogs by asking your close confidantes to review them, share their feedback and help you improve your content. Pep-talks to self also work really well.

Finally, it is also a wake-up call for those people who are ever-so-underconfident about publishing their work- it is okay if people don’t read it or don’t acknowledge it so much or don’t get what you are saying. You are first blogging for yourself; then blog better.

Should people discover it and appreciate it, well, that’s a bonus!

Image Credits: Diloupilou@Deviantart (header image), UnlockingGrowth, PatrickSeda@SlideShare, CiteLighter, NaturalOrder, Mumbrella