Can you think yourself old?

Photo by  Zachary Scott

Photo by  Zachary Scott

"As an example, [Ellen Langer] points to a study she conducted in a hair salon in 2009. She got the idea from a study undertaken nearly a decade earlier by three scientists who looked at more than 4,000 subjects over two decades and found that men who were bald when they joined the study were more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who kept their hair. The researchers couldn’t be sure what explained the link, though they suspected that androgens (male hormones including testosterone) could be affecting both scalp and prostate. Langer had another theory: “Baldness is a cue for old age,” she says. “Therefore, men who go bald early in life may perceive themselves as older and may consequently be expected to age more quickly.” And those expectations may actually lead them to experience the effects of aging. To explore this relationship between expectations of aging and physiological signs of health, Langer and her colleagues designed the hair-salon study. They had research assistants approach 47 women, ranging in age from 27 to 83, who were about to have their hair cut, colored or both. They took blood-pressure readings. After the subjects’ hair was done, they filled out a questionnaire about how they felt they looked, and their blood pressure was taken again. In a paper published in 2010 in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, they reported that the subjects who perceived themselves as looking younger after the makeover experienced a drop in blood pressure." - Bruce Grierson via The New York Times

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