The book “You Are Not So Smart” dedicates its first chapter to talk about something awesome called “Priming”. I’ll try my best to sum it up here.
Basically, there was this experiment where two participants would sit at a table, facing each other. They would have to agree on a fair division of 10 dollars between the two.
Now the way they would do this is they would reach in a bag to take one of two pieces of paper. One of them would get a piece of paper with the word “offer”, and the other a piece saying something like “decide”. The one with the “offer” role would have to make an offer, freely — let’s say, “we both get $5” or “I get $7 and you get $3”. The other one would have to decide on accepting or refusing the offer.
Now, there’s not one catch, but three:
1. If the offer isn’t accepted, no one gets any money. This means it has to be at least somewhat fair to both sides — while preferably maximizing profits for the offerer.
2. One of the participants is actually an actor. There’s only one participant, and the researchers made sure it’s always the one who gets the “offer” role.
It’s getting simpler now, right?
Here’s the third and main catch:
3. Half of the participants waited for the experiment in a different waiting room. One of the waiting rooms had a business-themed decoration, featuring briefcases, expensive pens, office art, suits, ties and firm handshakes. The other one had a beach-themed decoration, with sea, sand, surf and sun.
What happened is that the vast majority of participants which had waited in the business-themed room were agressive in their offers. They would argue and try to “sell” their offer. They would say things like “sure, I’ll get $8, which is way more than you do, but you’ll get $2, which is $2 more than nothing!”
On the other hand, the vast majority of the people which had waited in the relax-themed room would carelessly and generously [make] a 50% offer so both people would leave the room with $5 and be done with it.
The takeaway is that our actions are always being influenced by the values and messages perceived in our environment. Always. Unconsciously.
Isn’t it scary?
Quora answer by Fabio Bracht
When a man sits in a room he does not know it but that room often paints him.
Environments that indicate one should be cut-throat often results in an individual that is, in fact, cut-throat. This much is clear anywhere in society and every reasoning man that has ever lived has known it to be true for the majority of living men.
However, the room that surrounds man happens to include the decoration of society as well. Every relationship-goal tweet and every social-media fight and every phone manufacturer makes up the walls that surround individuals in the rooms they sit in throughout their lives.
The walls of these rooms and their decoration holds so much power over the minds of some individuals.
When one sits in a room he should make use of its function. He should close its windows and open them as desired; knowing that he can also walk within and outside of rooms as well.
A room was built by a few men to serve a purpose, but its purpose was not to build and paint other men. A room sustains man so that he may create, but it does not create him.
One should paint the walls of rooms as he sees fit in his mind. He should not let walls lay a single stroke on him.
Curiously enough, one of the most famous polymath, Leonardo Da Vinci, literally painted walls in his mind for inspiration and creativity:
I cannot forbear to mention among these precepts a new device for study which, although it may seem but trivial and almost ludicrous, is nevertheless extremely useful in arousing the mind to various inventions. And this is, when you look at a wall spotted with stains, or with a mixture of stones, if you have to devise some scene, you may discover a resemblance to various landscapes, beautified with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys and hills in varied arrangement; or again you may see battles and figures in action; or strange faces and costumes, and an endless variety of objects, which you could reduce to complete and well drawn forms. And these appear on such walls confusedly, like the sound of bells in whose jangle you may find any name or word you choose to imagine.
Leonardo Da Vinci