This afternoon found me sitting at the round glass top kitchen table in the apartment of my friend Christa Tinari. A Renaissance Woman, she is a soaring voiced singer and educator who through her work creating Peace Praxis, she envisions “a world we all want. A world where we all are equipped with the attitudes, knowledge and skills we need to live together in justice and peace.”
She had just moved into my suburban development from a nearby town and it was the first time I had visited her there. Both of us in life transition mode, we mused about the trajectory our paths were taking. In her sun drenched apartment, we were surrounded by multi-spiritual imagery and sculpture, photos she had taken while in Tibet a few years back, as well as motivational messages on her walls, cabinets and fridge. Sipping organic lemonade on an outrageously hot day in Bucks County, Pennsylvania day…heat index over 100 degrees, we were exploring beginnings and endings, stretching comfort zones; what I call ‘yoga off the mat’.
In the middle of the table was a bowl of what I thought initially was potpourri, but Christa offered the tiny husk covered piece of fruit that is called physalis, colloqually known as ground cherries which she purchased at the local farmers’ market. She warned me that the taste could either be sweet or sour. I risked either, as I peeled it and tasted cautiously. She watched for my reaction and I smiled as I let her know that it was sweet. It was then that it occurred to me what a metaphor for life this tiny morsel was. Much like the classic line in one of my favorite message movies, Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get,” so too is it with ground cherries. The truth is, there is a taste for everyone. Some people prefer sour over sweet culinarily. Some people prefer sour over sweet experiences, perhaps because it is what they have become accustomed to or what they think they deserve.
Because I had no expectations, I was free to enjoy whatever taste resulted from randomly picking up a cherry. Might I have made a face as if I had sucked on a lemon, if sour was what I was tasting? Sure. Would it have made me less likely to choose another? Probably not, since I knew that somewhere in there was a sweet one. I look at life through those lenses and know that it is a blend of both. Blessedly, most of my experiences have been as sweet as my drug of choice; chocolate.
Because many people have had life events occur that are less than desirable, they may come to expect more sour cherries were they to reach into the bowl.
According to Berdik, “Highly-trained weight lifters can out-do their personal bests when they believe they’ve taken a performance booster. People who wear taller, better looking avatars in virtual reality behave in ways that taller and better looking people tend to act. For example, they approach better-looking potential dates and they are more aggressive in negotiations, both in the virtual world and after the headgear is removed.”
What Color Is The Dress?
Last year, an image that went viral, touches on the topic of perception. A dress tested people’s view of reality. There were two choices: white and gold or blue and black. Some were adamant that it was the former, while others insisted it was the latter. Although there are physioligical reasons why one would see the dress in one color scheme or the other, there are also factors that have to do with expectation. What color did you see?
Selective Attention Shapes Experience
An experiment executed in 1999 asks viewers to count the number of times a basketball is passed between people standing in front of an elevator. A unexpected element was inserted. From that experience developed a book entitled The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us, by Christopher Chabris, PhD and Daniel Simons, PhD.
Chabris explains, “Your moment-to-moment expectations, more than the visual distinctiveness of the object, determine what you see—and what you miss.”
Another study explored the perception of a particularly flavored food that most would place in one category, but instead was considered another. The findings were published in Food Quality and Preference and revealed that what something is called, has impact on expectation for how it will taste.
Self Fulfilling Prophecy Comes To Pass
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology relates an experiment that measured the impact of perception on the ways in which men communicated via the telephone with women whose photos indicated that they were either classically attractive or less so. The ways in which the men spoke with them, were reflected back to them. If the men were drawn to them visually and treated them as such, the women responded as if they felt attractive.
Business author Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business speaks of the Expectation Effect.
Quality = Performance - Expectations
He references a shoe company that has high customer satisfaction for many reasons, “Customer expectations have to be high enough for a customer to purchase from you in the first place. After the purchase is made, however, the performance of the offering must surpass the customer’s expectations in order for them to be satisfied.
If performance is better than expectations, the customer’s perception of quality will be high. If performance is lower than expectations, the perception of quality will be low—no matter how good the offer is in absolute terms.”
It ties in with the idea of ‘underpromise/overdeliver,’ since those you serve may be pleasantly suprised by the outcome, rather than disappointed if their expectations are unmet.
- What are your expectations in relationships, business, health and finances?
- Are they shaped by family patterns and instilled messages?
- Do you believe that they can be altered to affect a more fulfilling outcome?
- Have you taken steps to reframe expectations?
- What results have you seen if you have done so?
Wishing you a bowl of sweet cherries.