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The Power of Suggestion

Anna Mikulak, Association for Psychological Science

Across many studies, research has shown that deliberate suggestion can influence how people perform on learning and memory tasks, which products they prefer, and how they respond to supplements and medicines, which accounts for the well-known placebo effect.

But what can explain the powerful and pervasive effect that suggestion has in our lives? The answer lies in our ‘response expectancies,’ or the ways in which we anticipate our responses in various situations. These expectancies set us up for automatic responses that actively influence how we get to the outcome we expect. Once we anticipate a specific outcome will occur, our subsequent thoughts and behaviors will actually help to bring that outcome to fruition.

Today my workout was 6X1200 meter repeats at half marathon pace (6:51/mile) with one minute rest in between. Compared to intervals at 5K pace, this seemed like a walk in the park and as with all of my track workouts to date, I was faster than what I should be doing. But in my mind, it’s what feels right so I go with it. During my second interval I started to wonder if my coach was getting mad that I wouldn’t stick to goal pace. So during my minute break, I asked Is it bad that I’m running 6:40 pace? He told me no since I wasn’t really working that hard to maintain the pace. Then his next few statements kind of changed what I thought I was capable of as a runner.

Gavin asked about my VO2 max a few days ago. He wanted to look up what Jack Daniels (the running coach, not the whiskey guy) had to say about other runners’ times with the same VO2 max. When I had it tested in September, it was 60.4% which is actually quite good. According to Mr. Daniels, runners with my same VO2 max run a 1:18:09  half marathon and a 2:43:25 marathon. (Check out the charts here.) I laughed out loud when my coach told me this. My immediate response  – there is absolutely no way this wil ever be me. However, when my one minute rest was over, I had a vision that maybe I could actually run that fast. Or at least come close. Immediately, I saw myself as a faster runner and then easily ran my fastest repeat. The mere suggestion that I might be able to run that fast, made me believe I am that fast.

Coach immediately told me to slow it back down. I said he should have never told me about the 1:18 half marathon 🙂 Suggestion is a powerful thing. 

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: Because the repeats were so easy for me today, I did one more that I was suppose to. The pace was consistent throughout and I felt great the entire time. When I came home, I had run club and got in another few miles. It’s been a great day for running.  Stats from my track workout are here.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Richard #

    Sounds like the Pavlov’s dog phenomenon.

    January 2, 2013

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