Leslie Parrott, in her book, “The Habit of Happiness,” tells the true story about a United States government study on the effect of positive attitude on living things.
Under government grant, the Ph.D.’s created a controlled test environment.The researchers used two receptacles somewhat larger than a pie pan, more like the pans used for gold panning in Alaska. To be sure that they had the same quantity and quality of dirt in each, they actually blew the dirt into the pans, weighing them to the exact scientific amount.Then they counted out 23 seeds for the soil in each of the pans followed by the same amount and quality of fertilizer for each. They took the two pans into a greenhouse where they set them in the sun so both would be subject to exactly the same temperature and same amounts of sunshine during the germination period.There was only one variable in this experiment.
The scientists with Ph.D. degrees, three times a day, hovered over one pan, and with all the negativism they could conjure, they attacked those poor, helpless seeds with all kinds of verbal abuse, such as “Nothing I ever plant grows...nothing will happen here...If the seeds do sprout, they won’t amount to anything...I doubt if they ever come through the soil, and if they do, they will soon die.”
Then, three times a day, they turned to the other pan, their personalities now changed. Suddenly they were all smiles. In pleasant voices theybegan to say every good and helpful thing they could imagine about the possible germination of the seeds. “I really have a green thumb... Everything I ever put in the ground grows...I can hardly wait to see how beautiful these plants are going to be... What we get here is going to be terrific...” With all of the positive emotional expressions they can come up with, these men used their attitudes as reinforcement for the growth, and development of the seeds.
Three weeks later, a picture of these two pans appeared in TIME Magazine.The pan on the right which had been the object of all their scorn at a few small shoots coming through the ground, but could never be considered a full crop. In the pan on the left, which had been the object of their positive reinforcement, there was a full stand of grass that looked strong enough for a person to take hold of and, clenching it, lift the entire pan, dirt and all. The grass was eight or 9 inches tall and in full flower.