Sometime back I resolved to do something about my sedentary lifestyle and bring back my body in shape. Needless to say that Doctor’s advice for physical activity so as to normalise blood – sugar level had been the driving force.
So I contemplated taking up some sport.
Joggers however seemed scrawny and unhappy. Moreover friends around had made me aware of adverse impact of रोड running on knee joints.
Moreover, cyclists looked all bottom-heavy. Cycling at the same time required a heavy investment that I desisted making before being sure if I would continue with it.
Somehow swimmers seemed well-built with streamlined bodies.
Swimming thus appealed much more, and I decided to join a swimming pool in Rajendra Nagar, and train hard regularly.
A short while later, I realised having succumbed to an illusion.
I realised that professional swimmers do not really have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques.
How their bodies are designed is in fact a criteria for selection, and not the result of their training.
Similarly, female models advertise cosmetics. This makes many consumers believe that these products would also make them beautiful.
But then, it is not the cosmetics that make all these women model-like.
Quite simply, the models are born attractive, and it is only for this reason that they are in there for cosmetics advertising.
As with the swimmers’ bodies, beauty is a factor for selection, and not the result.
Essence of advertising
Whenever we confuse selection factors with results, we fall prey to what is often referred to as the swimmer’s body illusion.
It is worth noting that without this illusion, most advertising campaigns are not likely to yield desired results.
Moreover, this bias has to do with more than just the pursuit of chiselled cheekbones and chests.
For example, IIM Ahmedabad has the reputation of being the best business school in India and many highly successful people including Raghuram Rajan, Harsha Bhogle, Ashish Nanda, Shikha Sharma, C.K. Prahalad and Arvind Subramanian have studied there.
Does this mean that IIM Ahmedabad is a good business school?
No one really has clear cut answer to this simple question.
May be the school is just average, but it simply recruits the brightest students around.
It is a common practice for business schools to lure students with statistics relating to future income. For this placement record of previous years is often highlighted through various modes – direct advertisements as also news of students offered unimaginably high pay package.
All this is intended to communicate that exorbitantly high tuition fees are to pay for themselves after a short period of time.
Many prospective students fall for this approach.
Not that business schools doctor the statistics, but then their statements should not be swallowed wholesale.
Because those who go to a business school are different from those who do not, and the income gap between these groups stems from a number of other reasons that have nothing to do with the MBA degree itself.
Once again we see the swimmer’s body illusion at work – the selection factor confused with the result.
So, if you are considering further study, do it for a better reasons than just a bigger pay cheque.
If you ask happy people about the secret of their contentment, you would often hear answers like, ‘You have to see the glass half-full, rather than half-empty.’
It is as if these individuals do not realise that they were born happy, and now tend to see the positive in everything.
These people really do not realise that cheerfulness – as is established by many studies such as those conducted by Harvard‘s Dan Gilbert – is largely a personality trait that remains constant throughout life.
This is aptly put forth by social scientists Lykken and Tellegen, ‘Trying to be happier is as futile as trying to be taller.’
When the optimists always seeing the glass half-full write self-help books, the illusion tends to become treacherous.
It is therefore important to give a wide berth to tips and advice from self-help authors.
For billions of people, these pieces of advice are unlikely to help.
Moreover, the unhappy ones don’t write self-help books about their failures, and so this fact remains hidden.
So it is advised to be careful whenever you are encouraged to strive for certain things – be it abs of steel, immaculate looks, a higher income, a long life, a particular demeanour or happiness.
You are likely to fall prey to the swimmer’s body illusion.
So before you decide to take the plunge, look in the mirror – and be honest about what you see.