Are we as old as our age, or only what age we think we are?
That’s something that Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer has been examining for over three decades.
Through different experiments with senior citizens, she tries to show the deep connection between body and mind.
She believes it’s possible for a person’s mind to help remedy a physical ailment. To examine this, she’s conducted numerous studies that focus on an individual’s expectation of aging versus the real symptoms of aging.
One specific study done in 1981, which Langer refers to as the counterclockwise study, involved a group of eight men in their 70s spending five days attempting to live as the person they were 22 years previously.
Their surroundings were all from 1959, and they discussed sports and current events from that time in present tense while fully allowing themselves to believe they were younger.
By acting younger, the mens’ bodies also exhibited signs of youth. Compared to a previous control group who didn’t get the full 1959 treatment, the eight men were suppler, sat taller, showed greater manual dexterity, and had their eyesight improve.
Many factors could have affected this study, including participants trying hard to please those in charge of the study or simply enjoying its novelty instead of experiencing conclusive physical changes.
Throughout the years, Langer’s experiments have been viewed controversial or inconclusive by some of her peers.
She’ll conduct another counterclockwise experiment again in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where participants will sign up for the week-long immersion. Only in this study, the 24 subjects are all women who have been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and they’ll be living life in 2003, pre-disease.
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