TIME psychology

5 Secrets to Always Making a Good First Impression

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Research shows that first impressions are even more important than you think:

The findings indicate that getting off on the wrong foot has devastating long-term consequences.

And once first impressions are set, they’re very hard to change.

Via David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart:

A study in 1997 by Wilkielman, Zajonc, and Shwartz created first impressions in subjects with images of smiles and frowns. The people in the study saw a photo of either a happy or a sad face flash briefly on a screen and then were shown an unfamiliar Chinese character and asked to say whether or not they liked it. People tended to say they liked the characters that followed the smiles over the ones that followed frowns, but later on when they saw the same characters with the expressions preceding them reversed, they didn’t change their answers. Their first impression remained.

Most important part of a job interview? Yup, the first impression:

By careful analysis, the researchers found that all of these factors influenced the final interview ratings, and that this was due to the way they shaped first impressions: after those first few minutes, there was little extra influence of these qualities across the rest of the interview.

So they’re really important. But don’t get too worried; there are a number of simple things you can do to make a great first impression.

Let’s get to it.

1) Assume They Already Like You

Be “socially optimistic.” Assume people already like you and they probably will:

Social optimists, of course, are in the happy position of expecting to be accepted and finding that, generally speaking, they are. Social pessimists, though, face the dark side of what sociologist Robert K. Merton—who coined the expression ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’—has called a ‘reign of error’. Expectation of rejection leads to the projection of colder, more defensive behaviour towards others, and this leads to actual rejection.

(For more on how to get people to like you, click here.)

Okay, let’s get slightly sneakier…

2) Drug Them

I’m not talking about anything illegal or scandalous here. Be like a loving mom and drug them with tasty food. A cheeseburger can be a powerful influence tool:

The consumption of proferred food induces a momentary mood of compliance toward the donor that is strongest at the time the food is being consumed and that decreases in strength rapidly after the food has been consumed.

Neuroscience research shows that two cheeseburgers is the pleasure equivalent of one orgasm.

Or just offer them some coffee. The smell of java makes us nicer to one another:

In a preliminary study, passersby in a large shopping mall were significantly more likely to help a same-sex accomplice (by retrieving a dropped pen or providing change for a dollar) when these helping opportunities took place in the presence of pleasant ambient odors (e.g., baking cookies, roasting coffee) than in the absence of such odors. Participants also reported significantly higher levels of positive affect in the presence of pleasant odors.

(For advice on how to best use caffeine — from a neuroscientist — click here.)

And some ways to click with others are obvious, but even more critical than you think…

3) That Handshake Matters

Definitely shake their hand:

The study was led by Beckman Institute researcher Florin Dolcos and Department of Psychology postdoctoral research associate Sanda Dolcos. They found, as they wrote, that “a handshake preceding social interaction enhanced the positive impact of approach and diminished the negative impact of avoidance behavior on the evaluation of social interaction.”

In fact, a firm handshake was correlated with being hired after a job interview:

Five trained raters independently evaluated the quality of the handshake for each participant. Quality of handshake was related to interviewer hiring recommendations.

(To learn what people can tell about you from your handshake, click here.)

So your handshake should be firm. Should you make yourself sound good or be modest?

4) Spin Things (Just A Bit)

Speak positively about yourself. It’s actually better than being modest:

Overly positive statements about oneself were beneficial only when perceivers had no reason to believe they were unfounded. In addition, conveying self-knowledge was more beneficial than being modest. The results are consistent with the presumption of calibration hypothesis, which states that confidence is compelling because, barring evidence to the contrary, perceivers assume others have good self-insight. Therefore, to make the best impression, people should be as positive as is plausible to perceivers.

Frame the conversation with a few well-rehearsed sentences regarding how you want to be perceived. This will end up being the structure the other person forms their memories around.

Via Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To:

The take-home point is that having the appropriate schema or context for encoding information helps us understand and recall this information, but only if we get the schema at the outset.

Sound shady? Not really. Research shows that putting your best self forward actually reveals your true self more accurately:

In sum, positive self-presentation facilitates more accurate impressions, indicating that putting one’s best self forward helps reveal one’s true self.

(To learn a shortcut to bonding with a romantic partner, click here.)

Think you should be suave like James Bond when trying to make friends? Don’t do it…

5) Don’t Play It Cool

You know who makes a better first impression than you do? People with racist beliefs. Seriously. You know why?

Because they have to put in effort to not come across badly. Going the extra mile to come across well has positive effects:

We tested the hypothesis that, ironically, Blacks perceive White interaction partners who are more racially biased more positively than less biased White partners, primarily because the former group must make more of an effort to control racial bias than the latter.

What’s the best way to make that effort? Simply show interest. Listen to what people have to say and ask them to tell you more:

Compared to control participants, participants who received a question rated their debate counterpart more favorably, were more willing to engage in future interaction with their counterpart, and acted in a more receptive manner.

(For more on how to be the kind of person people love to talk to, click here.)

Okay, we’ve got a number of good insights. Let’s round them up.

Sum Up

5 research-backed tips on how to make a great first impression:

  1. Assume they already like you and they probably will.
  2. Drug them! Meet over food or coffee, if possible.
  3. Always shake their hand. It makes a big difference.
  4. Being positive about yourself is better than being modest.
  5. Don’t play it cool. Show interest and ask questions.

First impressions make a huge difference but improving them is quite simple. Even if social skills aren’t your strong suit, you can make a solid connection with people. As Oscar Wilde said:

It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME beauty

Why You Should Love Your Body

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I refused to rob myself of something I enjoyed because of how other people might react to me

As a plus-size girl, there have been so many things I’ve put on hold, telling myself that they should happen “next year” after I’d lost some weight. But then, “next year” came and went, and my weight barely budged.

Eventually, I asked myself: If I never lose weight, will I never live the amazing life I want?

Putting my entire life on hold until I looked a certain way sounded like a crazy idea, so I decided against it and born was my motto “Don’t Wait On Your Weight.”

I looked closely at my fear of embarrassment and rejection, issues that that kept me from trying new things and living life to the fullest. I realized that I was rejecting experiences as a defense mechanism so that I wouldn’t be rejected.

Once I came to terms with my behavior, I began to challenge myself. Every time I felt myself shy away from something because of my size, I took a deep breath and walked towards the very thing that was scaring me. Read on for ways that I challenged myself — and ask yourself if some of them don’t sound all too familiar:

Don’t Wait On Your Weight…

To Date Online

I can remember a friend in high school telling me that guys don’t date girls who are bigger than a size 10. I took that rule to heart and was convinced that love wouldn’t find me until I found my way out of the big girl’s department. But, with my new motto motivating me to step outside of my comfort zone, I set up an online dating profile and ignored the negative voice in my head. I even put up a full body photo of myself and to my surprise — and delight — I went on awesome dates.

To Travel

Sometimes big girls have to push through seat-belt extenders and narrow plane seats to get where we need to go, but the world is too much of a magical place to let silly things like that get in my way. I’ve yet to die from asking for a seat-belt extender and pushing past that fear has given me amazing experiences like parasailing over the Atlantic Ocean and hiking in Runyon Canyon.

To Hit The Gym

Its easy to peep through the gym windows, see the chiseled, rock-hard bodies and feel like you need to drop ten pounds before you even walk in the door, but the gym is for everybody and every body. My health is one thing that’s non-negotiable and I’m not going to let myself feel intimidated by gym culture.

I know I deserve a healthy life at any size, and I work hard on my healthy curves journey. The gym’s just as much a place for me as it is for anyone else. Don’t rob yourself of a healthy lifestyle because you don’t have a flat tummy. Get some cute workout clothes and start sweating.

To Wear A Bikini

I would have never thought in a million years that I’d be on vacation in Miami wearing a two- piece swimsuit, but a few months ago, I did just that, and it was the best trip I’ve had in a while. No one stared at me, no one laughed at me, and I even got a few compliments. I had an amazing time and I shudder at the thought that I would ever skip something like that based on numbers on a scale. Life’s too short to skip the beach!

Admittedly, it wasn’t overnight that I donned a bikini in public or signed up for parasailing. You’ve got to start out small. It’ll get easier, I promise. On weekends, instead of pouting and saying “why go out and dance with my girlfriends, no one is going to talk to me until I lose weight,” I took pains to remind myself that I love to dance, and I wasn’t about to let my size hold me back. Reasoning that I’d be happier out dancing than moping in my apartment, I went out. I refused to rob myself of something I enjoyed because of how other people might react to me.

Once I consciously worked to break the habit, I learned that most people are too caught up in their own insecurities to focus on mine. I also learned that I am very good at imagining terrible scenarios that never actually happen.

If you feel like your weight is holding you back, I encourage you to start taking the steps to claim the life you deserve to live. The next time a social opportunity arises, throw on a cute outfit and go! Of course, you may face rejection or experience awkward moments (who doesn’t?), but you also might have the time of your life.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

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4 Ways to Stand Out and Gain Positive Recognition at Work

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out

Embrace the power of your difference

“I was the only one in the room,” my friend told me over drinks one evening. “The only woman, the only non-finance person, the only person under 40.” Earlier that day, she’d been involved in a high-level business negotiation. Her senior position entitled her to be in the room, but that didn’t make it any easier when she realized that on almost every level, she was the outlier. She was normally a confident businesswoman, and that’s the image she strove to project that day. Inside, however, she became conscious of every move. Is this what they’d expect a woman to be doing? How can I make sure they don’t treat me like a secretary?

In our professional lives, we’re told it’s a good thing to stand out and be noticed. But in practice, looking different or being different from everyone else can be a fraught experience. Here are four ways to stand out the right way and take control of your career.

1. Embrace the power of your difference. Scientist Eric Schadt, thanks to his early training in math and computer science, was one of the first to leverage the power of Big Data in biology. For years, many other biologists were skeptical of his ideas – but Schadt persevered, and today has more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles to his name on subjects as diverse as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. When your background is different than others – because of your age, your gender, your education, or your past career experiences – you see the world in different ways, and that can lead to breakthroughs.

2. Make your expertise undeniable. It can be hard to be recognized as an expert right out of the gate if you’re a generalist. But if you start with a niche, you can quickly outmaneuver the competition and demonstrate a superior knowledge of a narrow subject, such as wearable technology or water polo or the Iowa caucuses. Once others recognize your expertise, they’re more likely to listen to you on a variety of related subjects.

3. Build your network. It’s always helpful to have a strong network of fellow professionals who know you, trust you, and believe in you. But when your background is unconventional in a given context – a millennial in a top corporate role, or a woman in a venture-capital firm – it becomes essential. Your network can give you the kind of frank feedback you need in order to navigate office politics and complex dynamics, and can serve as cheerleaders when others doubt you based on surface criteria. Making an effort to have lunch with one new person and reconnect with at least one colleague in your inner circle on a weekly basis can keep your network strong.

4. Share your knowledge. One of the best ways to convince skeptics of your merits is to prove you know what you’re doing. When you share your knowledge publicly – giving speeches, writing blog posts, or curating a smart Twitter feed about your industry – you demonstrate your competence clearly because you allow others to see what’s inside your head. An additional advantage is that when you start to build up a broader following, those closest to you – such as co-workers who may have been questioning your credentials – have to re-evaluate their feelings when their own friends start to talk about you and your ideas.

We all remember the feeling from middle school lunchtime: It can be awkward and uncomfortable to stand out. If you can convince others of your competence, you’ll actually benefit from your difference because you’ll be more memorable. Harnessing the power of standing out in the right way can give your career an enormous boost.

Dorie Clark’s new book Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It comes out today.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

The Peter Principle and the Law of Terrible People

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Overcome the promotion politics

If you’ve ever worked in an organization, you’ve no doubt come across someone in senior management and asked yourself how they ever got promoted.

The Peter Principle, coined by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, contends that, in a hierarchy, people are sooner or later promoted to positions which they are no longer skilled to handle. This is their “level of incompetence.” This is where they stay.

James March offers some compelling insight into why this happens.

In his book High Output Management, Andy Grove points out that this is largely unavoidable because there is no way to know a priori at what point the person will be incapable of handling further promotions.

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers Ben Horowitz discusses the Law of Crappy People.

The Law of Crappy People states: For any title level in a large organization, the talent on that level will eventually converge to the crappiest person with the title. The rationale behind the law is that the other employees in the company with lower titles will naturally benchmark themselves against the crappiest person at the next level. For example, if Jasper is the worst vice president in the company, then all of the directors will benchmark themselves against Jasper and demand promotions as soon as they reach his low level of competency.

Horowitz suggests the best way to overcome this is with a properly constructed and disciplined hiring process.

Ideally, the promotion process should yield a result similar to the very best karate dojos. In top dojos, in order to achieve the next level (for example, being promoted from a brown belt to a black belt), you must defeat an opponent in combat at that level. This guarantees that a new black belt is never a worse fighter than the worst current black belt.

Frustratingly, there is no exact analogue to a fistfight in business, so how can we preserve quality without actual combat?

To begin, start with an extremely crisp definition not only of the responsibilities at each level but also of the skill required to perform the duties. When describing the skills, avoid the generic characterizations such as “must be competent at managing a P&L” or “must have excellent management skills.” In fact, the best leveling tools get extremely specific and even name names: “should be a superstar recruiter— as good as Jenny Rogers.”

Next, define a formal process for all promotions. One key requirement of the process should be that promotions will be leveled across groups. If you let a manager or a single chain of command determine promotions unilaterally, then it’s possible that, for example, HR will have five vice presidents and Engineering only one. One way to level across groups is to hold a regular promotions council that reviews every significant promotion in the company. When a manager wishes to promote an employee, she will submit that employee for review with an explanation of why she believes her employee satisfies the skill criteria required for the level. The committee should then compare the employee with both the level’s skill description and the skills of the other employees at that level to determine whether to approve the promotion. In addition to ensuring fairness and level quality, this process will serve to educate your entire management team on the skills and accomplishments of the employees being submitted for promotion.

Most management teams I’ve worked with spend too little time on promotions, which encourages politics. Employees see gaps in the process and focus on exploiting them. Another big mistake is hiring by consensus, which leads to hiring for a lack of weakness rather than a strength. This kills organizations.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

This Simple Exercise Will Make Sure You Spend Time on What Makes You Happy

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Here's a simple three-step solution

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Wake up. Go to work. Stay a little late. Come home. Make dinner. Go to bed. Do it all over again.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Before you know it, a week has passed, the month ends, the year is over, and you haven’t done a thing that mattered to you. Somehow, you managed to be busy and bored all at the same time.

So, how do you break the cycle? Is there a way to actually spend time on what makes you happy—to separate the urgent from the important?

Marika Reuling, chief of staff at Harvard University, might have a simple three-step solution.

Step 1: Start a Life Audit

At the 2015 Greater Boston Women in Leadership Symposium, Reuling spoke about completing a life audit once or twice a year to help her reevaluate how she spends and prioritizes her time. To get started, you’ll need a bunch of sticky notes, a pen, a blank wall or floor, and privacy. You should probably turn your phone off, too.

A life audit, as serious as it sounds, is simply the process of writing down every tangible goal or vague ambition, both professional and personal, on a Post-it note and sticking it on a blank wall. Ximena Vengoechea, after completing her own life audit, suggests shooting for at least 100 wishes for yourself.

Step 2: Define Your Vision

From there, try to place each of your goals into a bucket: travel, health, family, career, and more. Whatever theme comes up can have its own bucket. Move the sticky notes around until they’re all under the right theme, and consider whether these themes capture what you want your career and life trajectory to be. Continue adding more sticky notes, if necessary.

What you have in front of you now are guidelines for how to spend your time in a way that’s rewarding for you. For Reuling, this step helped her realize she needed something in her professional life that allowed for more artistry. Now, not only does she help manage resources and staff at Harvard, she co-runs a vineyard with her husband in Sonoma Valley, California.

Step 3: Design Your Day

Now that you have your guidelines, plot your day around these goals. Mark each note with an “S” for short term, an “L” for long term, or an “E” for every day. From there, you can decide how to work toward your short and long term goals. This is where you want to get specific. Set weekly or monthly goals and be exact about the time you hope to spend.

Reuling suggests using the Timely app (or something similar) to help you plan and keep track of how you’re spending your time. If you’re having trouble figuring out where you can actually fit more into your day, consider doing a time audit to see where you’re spending all your time and whether it makes sense or not.

Working toward a hundred goals big and small may sound like a daunting task—and it is, but no one ever said you had to do it alone. As Reuling concludes, “Think about your team, both at work and at home.” No one ever found success on their own, so don’t forget to lean on others as you try to break the cycle and refocus your goals.

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article above was originally published on The Muse.

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TIME psychology

3 Things Psychopaths Can Teach You About Being a Happier Person

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

You’re a good person. Or at least you’re trying to be. Me too. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from the bad guys.

And I mean the really bad guys — psychopaths. So let’s give the devil his due. And that’s why I gave Kevin a call.

Dr. Kevin Dutton is a researcher at Oxford and author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.

You might be wondering what good we can learn from people who have no empathy. Actually, plenty.

In fact, Kevin found out what it was like to be a psychopath — firsthand. For a brief period he actually turned himself into one, literally. (More on that below.)

Okay, let’s see what good we can take away from some very bad people.

So What Is A Psychopath Really?

First off, psychopaths are not necessarily violent. And it’s not a black and white thing.

They possess an extreme amount of a number of traits we all can exhibit at times: ruthlessness, fearlessness, charisma, focus, and a lack of empathy. Here’s Kevin:

When psychologists like myself talk about psychopaths, we’re actually referring to a specific set of individuals with a distinct subset of personality characteristics such as: ruthlessness, fearlessness, charm, charisma, coolness under pressure, focus, and of course, those signature deficits in conscious empathy. The first conclusion you can arrive at, Eric, is that psychopathy is not an “all or nothing” construct. It’s not a case that you’re either a psychopath, or you’re not. Some people clearly are; those people who are at the high end of the spectrum.

(For more on the professions that have most psychopaths, click here.)

And this is where it gets really interesting. Kevin got to feel firsthand what goes on inside the mind of a psychopath.

What Does It Feel Like To Be A Psychopath?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation” (TMS) is when scientists apply a powerful magnet to a part of your brain. They don’t need to open your head to do it, either. It’s similar to an MRI.

With TMS they can “turn down” the electrical signals in particular parts of your brain with powerful results.

Target the amygdala and other specific areas and you can temporarily shut off empathy and fear, giving you a “psychopath makeover.”

Via The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success:

Turn down the signals to the amygdala, of course, and, as Ahmed Karim and his colleagues at the University of Tübingen did, to the brain’s morality neighborhood, and you’re well on the way to giving someone a “psychopath makeover.”

Kevin tried this in a lab, under test conditions.

He was shown horrifying images that made him recoil. Then, after the “psychopath makeover” he was shown the images again. This time he “found it difficult to suppress a smile.” They had no effect on him.

But what did it feel like in his head to briefly be a psychopath? Here’s Kevin:

It’s as if you’ve had a six pack of beer, but you don’t feel the tiredness and sluggishness that go with it. Your inhibitions are gone, but you’re very very alert… A lot of us drive around with a foot hovering over the brake pedal too much. Psychopaths drive around without any thought to the brake pedal at all, with their foot flooring the gas. It was a beautiful feeling, I must say. It was really really good.

That’s pretty scary, right? So why in the world would he think any good could come of this? Because, again, it’s all about how intensely you have those feelings and the context you are in.

At the far end of the spectrum, no doubt, these things are very very bad. But some of these traits, at the right time and in the right role, are beneficial or downright essential. Here’s Kevin:

In order to be successful, Eric, you need the requisite skill set, plus the right kind of personality traits to optimally operationalize that skill set. I’m not saying, as some of the media have pointed out, “Dutton is saying that psychopaths are brilliant.” I’m not. If you are a pure psychopath, say a Ted Bundy, and you’re unable to regulate those dials on your mixing desk, you are going to screw your life up, and the life of anybody you come into contact with. What I am saying is, at the right level, in the right combination, and in the right context, certain psychopathic characteristics can really benefit you.

(For more on how to be fearless, click here.)

Still on the fence? I don’t blame you. Wanna be convinced? For that we’ll need to look at a psychopath we all love, respect and envy…

James Bond.

James Bond — The Psychopath We All Love

Yes, James Bond is a psychopath. Here’s Kevin:

Confidence, charisma, ruthlessness, fearlessness, mental toughness, risk taking… that is the James Bond profile, there’s no doubt about it. That is 007. In his time, amongst other things, he’s skied off the edge of a mountain. Used crocodiles as stepping stones. Killed a man in a public lavatory and hurled another into a shark pit with a suitcase containing $2 million. He is an icon of icy ingenuity, lord of the beatifically brutal. James Bond’s brain packs some of the most psychopathic neurochemistry in cinematic history, and all, of course, for Queen and country.

And this isn’t just speculation. Academic research has been done on the psychopathic traits Bond possesses — and how they can be beneficial.

Via The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success:

Back in 2010, Jonason (then at New Mexico State University) and his colleagues published a paper titled “Who Is James Bond? The Dark Triad as an Agentic Social Style,” in which they showed that men with a specific triumvirate of personality traits— the stratospheric self-esteem of narcissism; the fearlessness, ruthlessness, impulsivity, and thrill-seeking of psychopathy; and the deceitfulness and exploitativeness of Machiavellianism— can actually do pretty well for themselves out there in certain echelons of society.

Clearly, Bond isn’t always nice. But given his job, he can’t afford to be. Here’s the trailer for Casino Royale. Skip to 1:10 in and give a listen:

Vesper: It doesn’t bother you? Killing those people?

Bond: Well, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if it did.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Academic research or not, James Bond isn’t real. But there are plenty of other areas where we need people with those psychopathic dials turned up a bit.

Do you want a surgeon who is so sensitive and empathetic that he can’t cut you open to save your life? I didn’t think so. Here’s Kevin:

In the presence of the necessary skill set, certain psychopathic characteristics actually make you better at your job. Let’s say that you’ve got a skill set to be a top surgeon. You’ve got the manual dexterity, you’ve got the spacial awareness, you’ve the medical know-how, but you cannot dispassionately disengage from the person that you are operating on. If you don’t have that last personality characteristic, then you’re not going to make it as a top surgeon. A great neurosurgeon told me, rather chillingly, “As soon as you start emotionally identifying with a person that you’re operating on, you are walking a professional tightrope.” That kind of ability to dispassionately disengage in surgery, the narcissistic self-confidence in law, the ruthless streak to fire someone in business… They’re all psychopathic personality characteristics. These are three examples of how certain psychopathic characteristics can really help you.

Yes, research shows there are “good” psychopaths. Many people in positively heroic professions have strong psychopathic traits.

Via The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success:

…Diana Falkenbach and Maria Tsoukalas, at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, have recently begun studying the incidence of so-called adaptive psychopathic characteristics in what they term “hero populations”: in front-line professions such as law enforcement, the military, and the rescue services, for example.

In fact, given the right incentives, research shows that psychopaths can actually be better team players than those of us with empathy.

And guess who has a brain and perspective most similar to psychopaths?

Buddhist monks. Seriously. Here’s Kevin:

There are a number of similarities between the psychopathic brain state and the Buddhist brain state. Increased rationality, the idea of living in the present, and keeping cool under pressure. Psychopaths show significant greater activation in the left three frontal regions of their brains compared to non-psychopaths. There’s also cerebral symmetry in psychopaths associated with a lot of reduction of anxiety, enhanced positive effect, increased focus of attention, and also orientation to reward. There are elements in that kind of profile in elevated spiritual states as well. Richard Davis discovered the same kind of profile in Buddhist monks when they’re immersed in deep meditation.

(For more on the science of what makes James Bond so impressive — and how to be more like him, click here.)

So psychopaths are not always so bad. So when should we be a little bit more like them?

What We Can Learn From Psychopaths

Obviously, we don’t want to be running around like Ted Bundy. But what good can we take away from psychopaths, without the bad? Here’s what Kevin had to say.

1) Focus On The Positive And “Just Do It”

When Kevin used TMS to give himself a “psychopath makeover” he said he felt energized and confident. His foot “came off the brake.”

There are plenty of times where this type of drive can help us overcome fear, indecision and worry. Here’s Kevin:

Since going into this field, I focus on the positive a lot more. This is something that psychopaths do. People say, “I want to put in for a raise, but I’m really scared.” Why are you scared? You’re scared because you’re afraid that you’re not going to get it. You’re scared because you think that the boss is going to say “no.” You’re afraid of how embarrassing that would be, and how undervalued that would make you feel. Instead, focus on the fact that you might get it. If you think along those lines and act accordingly, you are more likely to get that thing you want.

What most people don’t know is that the famous Nike slogan “Just Do It” was actually inspired by the words of psychopath Gary Gilmore.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

But then, just when Wieden was about to give up and go to sleep, he started thinking about a murderer named Gary Gilmore who had been executed in 1977. “He just popped into my mind,” Wieden says. “And so it’s the middle of the night, and I’m sitting at my desk, and I’m thinking about how Gilmore died. This was in Utah, and they dragged Gilmore out in front of the firing squad. Before they put the hood over his head, the chaplain asks Gilmore if he has any last words. And he pauses and he says: ‘Let’s do it.’ And I remember thinking, ‘That is so… courageous.’ Here’s this guy calling for his own death. And then, the next thing I know, I’m thinking about my shoe commercials. And so I start playing around with the words, and I realized that I didn’t like the way it was said, actually, so I made it a little different. I wrote ‘Just Do It’ on a piece of paper and as soon as I saw it, I knew. That was my slogan.”

(For more on how to develop confidence, click here.)

2) Live In The Moment

Remember how similar psychopaths were to Buddhist meditators?

While they’re not totally the same, both had increased rationality and kept cool under pressure.

Research shows meditation can help you get these good aspects without the psychopathic bad elements.

(For more on how to meditate and be more mindful, click here.)

3) Be Able To Uncouple Behavior From Emotion

Now you don’t want to do this all the time, but there are plenty of moments where this can really help.

Why do you procrastinate? Research shows negative emotions are a huge part.

When you can separate emotions from action you stress less and accomplish more.

Via The Good Psychopath’s Guide To Success: How to use your inner psychopath to get the most out of life:

Psychopaths aren’t ruled by emotions. In fact, they take a step back and surgically remove emotion from the situation. When stressing over a difficult task, ask yourself: what would I do if I didn’t feel this way? What would I do if I didn’t give a damn what other people thought? What would I do if it just didn’t matter?

How do you do that? Kevin has a simple, straightforward answer:

Next time you don’t want to do something, stop, pause, and ask yourself this, “Since when did I need to feel like doing something in order to do it?” And then just do it. It’s very very powerful. If we needed to feel like doing something in order to do it, we wouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, right? You just bear that little mantra in mind for a month, and your life really changes.

(For more on how to stop being lazy and get more done, click here.)

Okay, we’ve learned a few things from the dark side. Let’s pull this all together.

Sum Up

Here’s what Kevin said we should learn from psychopaths:

  1. Focus On The Positive And “Just Do It”
  2. Live In The Moment
  3. Be Able To Uncouple Behavior From Emotion

And Kevin is the guy to trust on this subject. Not only has he done the research at Oxford, but he was a psychopath after that little TMS experiment.

Of course, he’s not a psychopath anymore. Or, as Kevin told me in our interview:

It has actually worn off, Eric, although if you talk to my wife, she might tell you otherwise.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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The Best Way to Dress When You Want to Influence Someone

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Research shows you should either:

1) Dress formally or,

2) Dress like they do:

Via The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism:

In the 1970s, when young adults’ dress styles tended to fall into either the “hippie” or the “straight” category, researchers experimented with the effects of clothing choice. They approached college students on a campus, sometimes wearing hippie clothes and other times wearing straight clothes, and asked for change to make a phone call. When they were dressed in the same style as the student, the student said yes two-thirds of the time. When they were dressed in the opposite style, the student said yes less than half the time.

One company that understood this principle and used it to its advantage was American Express. They made their first good move when they started sending their salespeople to college campuses dressed like college students. They then went one step further. They didn’t just dress them like students, they hired students. And that’s when they saw their sales rates soar.

Join over 180,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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5 things your clothes are saying about you

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Why are high heels sexy?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Bruce Lee on Self Regulation Versus External Regulation

Bruce Lee
Archive Photos—Getty Images Bruce Lee

Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

"If there is always light, you don’t experience light anymore"

Bruce Lee the philosopher brought us some insightful comments on self-actualization. Now he’s back with more goodness.

In Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, Lee talks about the curative power of awareness.

The important thing to remember and to understand is that awareness, per se – by itself and of itself – can be curative. Because with full awareness you become aware of this organismic self-regulation; you can let the organism take over without interfering, without interrupting; we can rely on the wisdom of the organism. And the contrast to this is the whole pathology of self-manipulation, environmental control, and so on, which interferes with this subtle organismic self-control.

Our manipulation of ourselves is usually dignified by the word “conscience,” which is nothing but a fantasy, a projection onto the parents. The “road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and any intention towards idealistic change will achieve the opposite—the New Year’s resolutions, the desperation of trying to be different, the attempt to control oneself, and so forth.

If we are willing to stay in the center of our world, and not have the center either in our computer or somewhere else, but really in the center, then we are ambidextrous—then we see the two poles of every event. We see that light cannot exist without non-light. If there is sameness, you can’t be aware anymore. If there is always light, you don’t experience light anymore. You have to have the rhythm of light and darkness.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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These Are the Two Most Common Tricks Advertisers Are Using to Manipulate You

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Your “feared self.”

Via Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy:

In a surprising 2008 study, researchers at the University of Bath, UK, found that the fear of failure drives consumers far more than the promise of success; the latter oddly tends to paralyze us, while the former spurs us on (and pries open our wallets). In fact, as the study found, the most powerful persuader of all was giving consumers a glimpse of some future “feared self.”


As Slate aptly pointed out, “Dove’s empowerment-via-shame marketing approach for Go Sleeveless has its roots in advertising techniques that gained popularity in the 1920s: a) pinpoint a problem, perhaps one consumers didn’t even know they had; b) exacerbate anxiety around the problem; c) sell the cure.” Among the many “feared selves” that have been historically planted by marketers, the article cites such concerns as “bad breath,” “smelly underarms,” and “the many troubles down there.”

2) Your “ideal self.”

Via Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy:

…marketing strategies centered on celebrity do the exact opposite: they appeal to fantasies about our idealized future selves.


An interesting study carried out by researchers at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Canada’s University of Waterloo found that even fleeting exposure to an established brand—like Apple or Coke—can actually cause us to take on the behaviors championed or represented by those brands. For example, just being exposed to an Apple logo, a brand widely associated with creativity, made people think more imaginatively. So, since celebrities are fabulous, can’t exposure to their brands cause some of that same fabulousness to rub off on us, too? There’s no question that slathering on a movie star–endorsed face cream, perfume, or eye shadow makes us feel that much closer to our favorite celebrity and everything about that celebrity we envy. We carry him or her with us all day. And in turn, we adopt his or her values and attributes, too—his or her swagger, attitude, talent, individuality, coolness, or allure. In short, in effect we become that celebrity—in the deeper recesses of our brains, at least.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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41 Simple Ways to Make Yourself More Creative

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Here’s what the scientific research says:

  1. Travel.
  2. Or just expose yourself to other cultures.
  3. Or stay where you are and learn their language.
  4. Don’t surround yourself with the color red, stick to blue.
  5. Get rejected.
  6. Buy a potted plant.
  7. Give the problem to someone else.
  8. Or pretend you’re solving problems for someone else.
  9. Or pretend you’re a child.
  10. Think about love, not sex.
  11. Take a break.
  12. And stop being so hard on yourself.
  13. Smile.
  14. Or frown while happy.
  15. But either way, be happy.
  16. Or a bit paranoid.
  17. Follow Jeremy Dean’s 6 steps.
  18. Add a little background noise.
  19. Team up with both old friends and strangers.
  20. And people who don’t know what they’re doing.
  21. But you should work toward becoming an expert.
  22. Don’t be too original.
  23. Stop brainstorming.
  24. Take a shower.
  25. Stop trying so hard.
  26. Watch Shrek.
  27. Do the unexpected.
  28. Dance.
  29. Look at the Apple logo.
  30. Get drunk.
  31. Stay up all night.
  32. Hang out with sarcastic people.
  33. Do everyday things in unconventional ways.
  34. Play video games.
  35. Have hope.
  36. Get some distance.
  37. Turn it into a competition.
  38. Don’t get paid.
  39. Let that mind wander (but be careful.)
  40. Work from home.
  41. Still not Picasso? Here are 29 more ways.

Join over 180,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Related posts:

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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