In 1978, Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist performed an important study. She gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. One group was told they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they had autonomy in their daily schedule. The other group was told the staff would care for the plant and they were not given choices in their daily schedule.
After 18 months, twice as many people in the group given responsibility for their plant and schedule were alive than the other group. Langer took this as evidence that the present bio-medical model which views the mind and body as separate is wrong.
In response, she conducted a study to further examine the mind’s impact on the body.
In 1981, Langer and a group of graduate students designed the interior of a building to reflect 1959. There was a black-and-white TV, old furniture, and magazines and books from the 1950’s scattered about.
This would be the home to a group of eight men, all over 70 years old, for the next five days. When these men arrived at the building, they were told they should not merely discuss this past era, but to act is if they actually were their prior selves, 22 years ago. “We have good reason to believe if you are successful at this you will feel as you did in 1959,” Langer told them.
From that moment on, the study subjects were treated as if they were in their 50’s rather than their 70’s. Despite several being stooped-over and having to use canes for walking, they were not aided in taking their belongings up the stairs. “Take them up one shirt at a time if you have to,”they were told.
Their days were spent listening to radio shows, watching movies, and discussing sports and other “current events” from the period. They could not bring up any events that happened after 1959 and referred to themselves, their families, and their careers as they were in 1959. Read More >