Here’s another cool psychology experiment I read about in “Sway” by Ori and Rom Brafman:
The Love Bridge:
Capilano Canyon (near Vancouver, Canada) can be crossed on a rope suspension bridge (built in 1889) which spans 450 feet at 230 feet above the surface of the ground. There is also a solid wood bridge 10 feet off the ground further down the canyon.
The suspension bridge sways underneath your feet when strong winds blow through, but unsuspecting hikers were also swayed by it’s power.
For the experiment, a female research assistant was told to approach men (one at a time) between the ages of 18-35 as they stepped off the end of each bridge. She was supposed to follow a scripted story with each man. She was to tell them that she was a psychology student conducting a study on the affects of exposure to scenic attractions on creative expression. She would then ask each man to fill out a short survey. When he finished, she would offer to tell him about the study later when they had a bit more time. She was then instructed to tear off a corner of the survey paper, write down her name/phone number and hand it to them. Most of the men happily accepted the number and hiked on down the trail.
The team also sent a male student with the same instructions. Not surprisingly, he was repeatedly turned down and many men wouldn’t even fill out the survey. Over the following few days, there were only 3 curious hikers who called him up. The female student received many calls.
Now here’s the interesting part. Of the 16 men who crossed the small wooden secure bridge, only 2 called her. However, half of the 18 men who crossed the suspension bridge called.
Hmm. . . now what made the difference? Most likely, the feelings which developed during the rope bridge crossing affected their perceptions of her. Their heightened anxiety/adrenaline simulated the same sort of feelings that you get when you have a crush. Their emotional state impacted their decisions and their perceptions. She represented the safety and security they needed as she greeted them on solid ground. For the men on the other bridge, well. . .they didn’t have the same needs/emotions.
Emotions Matter. When you’ve got to make an important decision. Make it at a wise time. Don’t make big decisions right after periods of heightened anxiety or adrenaline.
Stress is something we’ve all experienced: that feeling right before taking a test (especially if you haven’t studied) or the feelings you get when there are too many things to get done and not enough hours in the day. Maybe it’s the tension in the air when certain people are around. Stress causes us to behave differently, to not think clearly, and in some cases it can cause physical illness or even heart conditions. It can also lead to anxiety or depression. In our “normal” use of the word, stress is not a good thing.
Recently, I heard about a distinction that some are making. They describe two kinds of stress. The first and most commonly used understanding – “distress,” and the second is called “eustress.” Eustress is a positive form of stress – a “good” stress. You know this one too, but probably never considered it stress. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve got a good workout going and your adrenaline is rushing through your veins. It’s the feelings you get when you’re riding a roller coaster or that hopeful concern right before your wedding ceremony. These are all forms of stress too. They cause us to behave differently, to think differently, and can cause physical reactions too, but we place this stress in a different category – for that matter, we don’t even call it “stress,” but use words like excited, nervous, or apprehensive to describe it. Another interesting phenomenon is when both collide. This is seen before childbirth. The physical might be considered distress, while the emotional feelings are typically experienced as eustress.
Interestingly enough, the body cannot discern the difference between distress and eustress. Both are equally draining. It’s important to keep a healthy balance of down time to combat these effects.
Here’s why I went into all this: What if we could trick ourselves? What if we could look at our “distress” situations as “eustress?” Could we take threats and think of them in terms of challenging opportunities? These kinds of ideas really bring me back to the Scripture in Gen 50:20 where Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Can we follow Joseph’s example and see the distress of our lives as something that God can use? Opportunities for Him to show up? Situations where He can be glorified? Areas where we can learn to trust Him more?
Prayer: Lord, You know my stress. I don’t know what the future holds. I won’t have a job in a couple of months or any way to support my family. I feel stressed – distressed. Help me to think differently – to see things as You see them. Help me to understand that this stress is simply another way that You’re at work our lives. Help me to trust You with the situation. Help me to bring You glory and feel exhilarated and excited rather than anxious and depressed. I know You are close to me, but I still feel alone sometimes. Touch me. Comfort me. Allow me to walk in Your Shalom. AMEN.