A newly released study reaffirms one of the key tenets of The Bliss Experiment: what we believe about ourselves changes our body and mind.
The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, found that the act of reminding elderly people of the stereotype that they are forgetful, prone to "senior moments" or even outright senile, actually caused their memory to deteriorate. In other words, their mind and memories were functioning more or less fine, then researchers hit them with the belief/stereotype that they had poor memory and in response, the seniors started to display memory problems that were not present before they were reminded of the stereotype!
This is more powerful evidence that we what we internalize and believe about ourselves becomes our reality. It's not always the case that we should see something first, then believe it. Sometimes, what we believe greatly changes the reality we see and create for ourselves.
Just as importantly, this study also reminds us of the terrible effects of stereotyping others. Whether racial, religious, cultural, gender, or ageist, stereotypes of any kind are pernicious. Not only do they prevent us from seeing the individual as they truly are in front of us, but there is real risk that by voicing a negative stereotype we will actually induce that behavior, thereby harming others and degrading our own society.