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The Power of Imagination

Imagination can be very powerful. If you believe that wearing red underwear makes you perform better on exams, then you are likely to be more confident and less nervous when writing them. This is exactly what happened in Poland, or at least so they say. 

Apparently, stores in Poland once ran out of red underwear because a study that showed girls wearing the red under garment did better on their high school exams that those who favoured other colours. Now I don’t know if such a study really exists, or whether it is an urban legend, but it doesn’t matter. If students believe that such a study was done and saw the results, then they will likely benefit from wearing red underwear.

And that may be of help  Supposedly, the original study was done only with girls, but that hasn’t stopped Polish stores from putting red boxer shorts on display. Come to think of it, Superman wore red underwear and he performed pretty well under pressure.

A far better example of the power of imagination was once provided by Patrick Moore, a British astronomer who used to have a popular radio program.  Back in 1976, he decided to have a little fun with his audience and announced that on a given day at exactly 9:47 A.M. a unique event would occur. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter and this would produce a gravitational alignment that would partially cancel out the earth’s gravitational field. If his listeners would jump up at the exact moment of this unusual alignment, Moore said, they would experience a strange floating sensation. This of course was total nonsense, nevertheless the BBC received hundreds of phone calls from people claiming to have felt the reduction in the earth’s gravitational pull. One of them really took the cake.  A lady reported that she and eleven of her friends had floated out of their chairs at the precise moment of the alignment.

One of the best examples of the power of imagination is of course the placebo effect.  If someone imagines that a particular nostrum or machine has curative properties, it often turns out to be so.  I was once attempting to demonstrate the power of a Violet Ray Cure device, which was popular in the late 1800s. I called for a volunteer from the audience and prepared to alleviate her arthritis by running the gizmo up and down her arm. It normally produced a violet glow and buzzing sound, but when I turned it on I realized I had plugged it into a non-functional outlet.  I did not let on that it was supposed to glow and just proceeded with the demonstration. Believe it or not, the lady came up to me after and told me she had not felt so much relief in months and wanted to know where you could buy the device. Now that is the power of imagination!


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