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"Image Enhance" -- The Discovery Files

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A new study suggests that pre-existing self-beliefs, as well as cultural stereotypes, may interfere with people's memories and keep them from remembering their true interests. For example, if someone is convinced she hates math but then experiences enjoying a math class, then the pre-existing negative bias could interfere with the individual's positive experience. The researchers in this study found one particular mental technique -- visualizing activities from a first-person perspective -- could help people combat pre-existing biases that block them from remembering their passions.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Image enhance.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

When searching out our true passions, we sometimes put on blinders based on pre-conceived ideas. You may think you know how you like to spend your time or what profession to pursue, but a new study from Ohio State University suggests your pre-existing self-beliefs and cultural stereotypes may actually keep you from remembering what truly interests you.

Suppose you're someone who's convinced: (Sound effect: thinking inside one's head) "I do not like Math." And then you take a math class and enjoy it. The study found you might well forget how much you liked the class because of what you believed going in.

Others have studied this destructive little quirk, but the Ohio State team may be the first to uncover a solution. First-person visual imagery.

It's like, visualize yourself sitting in the class and enjoying it but you need to visualize it from your own point of view -- what you'd be seeing through your own eyes. The researchers' experiments found that "first person perspective" puts people in a frame of mind where they think about how the past event made them feel. But visualizing from a third-person perspective puts people into a more abstract frame of mind, they tend to fall back more on pre-existing beliefs.

(Sound effect: playing tennis) This could be why I never followed up on my dream to become a professional tennis player. That plus I'm not that good.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

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