“By the end of the week, the group who played the game felt less stressed about their exam, less anxious during the exam, “ says Baldwin.
Lowering Stress and Boosting Sales
For the final part of the study, they tested telemarketers, a group they identified as dealing with a high level of social stressors like rejection. The researchers asked the participants to fill out questionnaires about their self-esteem and stress levels, and to give saliva samples to check for the level of the stress hormone cortisol. Again, one group played the smile game while the other played the flower game.
Those who played the smile game had 17 percent less of the stress hormone after just one week--and a 68 percent increase in sales. They also reported they had less stress and higher self-esteem. Both groups were also evaluated on confidence when talking on the phone by their quality control managers (who did not know which group they were in). The smile game group scored higher on this measure, as well. Baldwin says the game trains people to pay attention to positive things rather than negative things.
”So that suggests we’re able to retrain the automatic habits of thought,” Baldwin says.
He adds, “There are several conclusions… One is just how critical this issue of, 'Where do you pay your attention in your social life? Do you play attention to positive things or negative, rejecting, attacking things?' But in some sense, the more important finding is that it is possible to change that fairly simply by practicing over and over again a certain pattern of thought at a very specific level. And that you can actually do that within the context of a kind of computer game is, in some sense, the novel finding that has great potential, we think.”
Baldwin has since developed a commercial version of the game called MindHabits.
Publication: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 2007.
Authors: Stephane D. M. Dandeneau, Mark W. Baldwin, Jodene R. Baccus, Maya Sakellaropoulo and Jens C. Pruessner. All authors are from McGill except Jens C. Pruessner who is from Douglas Hospital Research Center
Funding: La Fondation Baxter et Alma Ricard, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health.