Bias number 30 is known as the context effect. This cognitive bias illustrates the ways in which a person’s environment affects perception of a stimulus such as an image, sound or object.
The context effect uses a top-down approach to analysing environmental information, meaning that people will base analysis on prior knowledge to make assessments on their experience of their surroundings. In essence, people are drawing on past experiences to infer conclusions about their present encounter with the stimulating object.
Let’s take this out of psychology speak for a moment and put it into a real-world situation so this is easy to understand. I’ll use my family as an example.
When we travel or explore the world on holiday, we encounter places that jog our memories of past holidays. I often find myself in conversation with my son and husband about a certain city square or the architecture of a cathedral that evokes the reminiscence of a previous place we’ve visited.
Mostly, this is a lovely thing to do. It's a way of associating our current experience with good memories. Sometimes, though, I find the conversation gets in the way of the experience. It’s a topic around which we as a family can connect, and it cuts off the experience of our current environment in the moment.
How does it work in business? It is especially used by astute marketers who are responsible for promoting and pricing products or services. Comparing products or services to others on the market in a savvy way influences consumer purchasing decisions. Offering products at a variety of price levels means that most buyers will opt for the one in the middle.
Unbeknownst to the buyer, the product priced in the middle is usually the one that is most profitable and therefore the product that the company wishes to sell most. It’s the context effect of offering both inferior and superior products either side of the middle product that makes it most attractive.
How might it impact human behaviour in other ways? The placebo effect is a well-known context effect in health circles, especially when dealing with issues like pain. The act of taking a tablet can set off a chain of events in a human’s neurological system that acts as a natural analgesic, even if the intervention is merely a sugar tablet devoid of any active pain-relieving ingredients.
This infers that our brains are pretty open to suggestibility, reacting to all sorts of stimuli in our environments, and often without our conscious input. So consider that it is important to take care with the information to which we exposes ourselves. Consider that your choices are being driven, in some cases manipulated, by the context in which you find yourself.
The context effect can be put to powerful use. People use the context effect to help their bodies heal from serious illness or injury without the need for invasive treatments. Inexplicable by science, humans have the capacity to fully recover from debilitating illnesses that, on paper, occur as impossible.
How does this happen? This type of person will have a top-down context that it’s possible. Perhaps he knows someone in his life who recovered from cancer without chemo. Perhaps she read testimonials from people who repaired spinal injuries through visualisation and meditation.
I have someone close to me who refused chemotherapy and radiation and, through mindfulness and visualisation, has disappeared a rare brain tumour and is on the road back to health. She is a living example of the work she has facilitated in others, namely deep, profound and lasting physical healing through the power of the mind.
What does that say to you? For me, it says a few things. The first one is that healing begins and ends in the mind. If you believe yourself capable of recovery, it’s possible, not a guarantee, but certainly possible.
The second thing is that the mind and the nervous system are capable of things that we can't imagine with a restricted 3D mechanical, material world view. Human beings are far more complex than a skin sack full of chemical processes, despite what mainstream medical science might have us believe.
While our minds can be impacted by our physical bodies, the mind itself exists outside the physical in the quantum realm. The brain and the nervous system enables communication between the two realms. The quantum realm is where everything begins. If you want to resolve a situation at its source, you have to work with the quantum realms of reality.
For me, this is what makes the mind so interesting. It exists beyond the material realm and yet it has a profound effect on life in the material realm. In fact, it shapes the material realm. I mean, you can’t perform brain surgery and extract individual memories with a scalpel. You could remove the hippocampus which would affect the body's recall. You might see evidence of a neural pathways as different parts of the brain light up during a scan. However, you can’t see the individual memories in 3D reality.
So where do these memories exist? And what is the mind — really?
Do you want to dive deeper into the quantum realm of the mind. Would you like to learn how to use your mind to accomplish amazing things?
If you’re ready to explore your mind in more depth, check out my new programme, Citizenship Brilliance. It’s already making a huge difference to people’s wellbeing — and their workplace performance as a result.
For me it’s all about healthy wealth. The most effective way to achieve that is through mental fitness, creating a sense of space, peace and focus in an area of life that for many occurs as a mystery.
Health begins in mind. Where does brilliance begin? In the mind, too. Bring some shine to your mind this year by registering in Citizenship Brilliance today.