cover image The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World

The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World

David Robson. Holt, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-82763-0

Journalist Robson (The Intelligence Trap) takes a comprehensive if dry look at the effects expectations can have on longevity, fitness, intelligence, and stress management. He explains that the brain, which he calls a “prediction machine,” constantly analyzes people’s own beliefs and expectations, and accordingly initiates changes, including physiological ones, as a result. As a counter to the many “pseudoscientific” self-help books about the power of expectations (most notably, The Secret), Robson investigates the “expectation effect” through peer-reviewed experiments and studies. In one, WWII soldiers who were told they were receiving a painkiller prior to surgery were actually given a saline injection; the placebo had a 90% efficacy rate. Elsewhere, the author cites studies of people who imagined they were lifting a heavy object and saw an 11% boost in their strength, and of people who have a sunny perspective on aging tending to live 7.5 years longer than those who have a pessimist outlook. Robson offers advice at the end of each chapter to help readers make the most of their lives by changing their expectations (for example, using visualization strategies to reduce anxiety), but while there are plenty of valuable takeaways, the bland prose doesn’t do the book any favors. Still, it’s a fine place to start for readers interested in the power of the mind. (Feb.)