serious intentions

“The way we read another person’s intentions changes our physical experience of the world,” says UMD Assistant Professor Kurt Gray, author of “The Power of Good Intentions,” newly published online ahead of print in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Gray directs the Maryland Mind Perception and Morality Lab.

“The results confirm that good intentions — even misguided ones — can sooth pain, increase pleasure and make things taste better,” the study concludes…For those in relationships, which is pretty much everyone, the message is to make sure your partner, sibling, friend, etc. knows you care. Gray notes, “It’s not enough just to do good things for your partner — they have to know you want them to feel good. Just imagine saying, ‘fine, here’s your stupid hug,’ — hardly comforting.” The same would also seem to apply to cooking, where emphasizing your concern about the experience of the diners makes things taste better.
Relatedly, these results also apply to business strategy. “It’s no surprise,” says Gray, “that food companies always pair their products with kindly old grandfathers and smiling mothers — thinking of this make believe benevolence likely increases our enjoyment.”

The study also suggests the general benefits of thinking that others mean well — including God. “Painful events attributed to a benevolent God should seem to hurt less than those attributed to a vengeful God, says Gray. “To the extent that we view others as benevolent instead of malicious, the harms they inflict upon us should hurt less, and the good things they do for us should cause more pleasure,” the paper concludes. “Stolen parking places cut less deep and home-cooked meals taste better when we think well of others.” –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Add to your character sketch. What does your character think about the intentions about the other characters in your story? How does it affect their relationships?

Journaling Prompt: How do you view the intentions of the people you live with? Work with? How does this affect your relationships?

Art Prompt: Good Intentions

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about how changing your perception of people’s intentions can change your worldview.

Photo Credit: gagilas on Flickr

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