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Changemaking Strategies for Everyday Life

Situation Blindness and the Automatic Self
Human beings are social creatures. We are all deeply influenced by the situations that we find ourselves in and by the people whom we are with. Normally, this is no problem; the ways that in which groups affect us are usually healthy and adaptive. Unfortunately, our natural tendency to be influenced by groups and situations can also sometimes lead us to make poor decisions and many of the ways in which groups affect us are difficult to spot without practice. We call this tendency to be unconsciously influenced by groups and situations situation blindness, and with practice, we can become less susceptible to its negative consequences.

One of the goals of the Heroic Imagination Project’s education program is to teach people about the psychology involved in their everyday social interactions. We believe that illustrating the psychological mechanisms behind various forms of group influence (e.g. conformity, the bystander effect, and obedience) through research examples, engaging media, and real-life stories, will help individuals to recognize and resist the negative aspects of these forces when they encounter them in their everyday experiences. We also provide research-based, skill-building activities which teach people how to widen their range of adaptive responses to challenging social situations.

“The Pause Button” How to Create Space for Reflection in Between Stimulus and Response

One way we teach people to change their behavior and social dynamics is by utilizing a concept we call “the pause button.” The idea is that when we are automatic, we have little control over how we react to stimuli from our environment:

Automatic Behavior: Stimulus à Reaction

However, when we become mindful, we enter a state in which we can choose our response. This gives a great deal of freedom over how we allow our situations to include us and the possibility to change our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

Mindful Behavior: Stimulus à “Pause” à Chosen Response

Here is a more detailed list of what how you can use a moment of mindfulness to change your automatic tendencies:

1)  Bring Yourself Fully into the Present Moment
2) Check for Automatic Behavior
3)  Consider Alternative Options
4)  Select a Preferred Response

Learning to pause before reacting is a skill which can be practiced and improved. It can be used both before and after exposure to a situation. You can build a habit over using the pause button both in association with specific situations or general cues from the environment, as well as certain thoughts and feelings. Over time this practice helps us to gain additional influence over the choices we make, and ultimately the people who we become.