Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Invisible Inspiration
15 December 2014

Invisible Inspiration

It's not just the strength of your muscles that brings sporting success – it's the strength of your mind too. Psychology plays a key role in helping athletes achieve their goals and they will often use visualisation techniques, such as imagining what will happen during a race or crossing the finish line, to spur themselves on the way to victory. But these visual tricks don't have to be overt, as shown by a neat demonstration of the subconscious mind over matter. Positive subliminal messages – active words like “go” and “energy”, or happy faces – flashed up on a screen for a fraction of a second can stimulate cyclists to exercise longer and harder than those shown sad faces and inactive words. Perhaps one day these inspiring messages could be combined with mobile display technology such as 'smart glasses' to give athletes a subconscious boost over the competition.

Written by Kat Arney

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