In todays podcast we get to meet a woman who has been producing some of the most cutting edge research in the fields of psychology, aging and mind-body interactions for over four decades now and is still to this day going as strong as ever. Ellen Langer was the first woman to be tenured in psychology at Harvard, has gone on to author 11 books and more than 200 research articles and along that academic way garnered professional accolades galore.
Her Counterclockwise study in the 1970’s was a landmark piece of research (amongst many others!) in the area of perception, expectation and belief and their impact on aging. In this stunningly simple but highly creative experiment Professor Langer took a group of elderly nursing home residents in their 70’s and placed them into an environment fitted to resemble one of 20 years earlier, and had them live there for a week as their younger selves. Astonishingly every single metric from gait and cognition through to height and even finger length improved dramatically. And this study is one that’s now been successfully replicated around the world, notably by the BBC for their 2009 series The Young Ones. This has understandably been a pretty mind-blowing piece of research and when I asked Ellen how quick this response might be expected to happen (meaning for us too!) – her response …
‘I think that the effect can be almost instant and the question is how long it takes for one to put their mind totally in a particular place’
And this study is simply the tip of the research iceberg for this ‘brilliant, creative social scientist, without any respect for conventional wisdom‘. And thank goodness for us she is so!
In this short but fascinating conversation Professor Langer also discusses her many decades of work with mindfulness and expounds about her equally astounding Psychology of Possibility. I will certainly be writing more about Ellen’s extraordinary work and do listen in as I’m sure you’ll be as amazed as I most certainly am. You can also find links at the bottom to two of her bestselling books: Mindfulness and Counterclockwise. If you haven’t already read them, trust me you need to.