Thinking about our past helps with the future

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Thinking about our own mortality prompts us to engage in self-esteem boosting activities. Perhaps we become more conscious of our legacy. But what about dwelling on our past?

Researchers at universities in Germany have been exploring how thinking about our ancestors affects us.

After all many of us are interested in our ancestors and genealogy is very popular today.

They found that thinking about our ancestors actually boosted IQ scores.

The researchers suggest that thinking about our ancestors and  how they overcame severe life-threatening problems and conditions makes us realise that people with similar genetic make-up to us triumphed in adversity.

They asked 80 undergraduates to think either of their 15th-century ancestors, their grandparents, or a shopping trip. Those who thought about their ancestors were more confident about upcoming examinations and felt more in control of theirt life in general.

Other studies involving thinking or writing about their ancestors led them to perform better on a range of intelligence tests including spatial and verbal tests. They scored an average of 14 out of 16 compared to the control group which only achieved an average of  10. The higher scores were partly due to completing more questions – the “promotion orientation“.

The ancestral effect even worked when the students were asked to think about negative aspects of their ancestors. Students asked to write about themselves or friends did not demonstrate any benefits.

The researchers said; “we showed that an easy reminder about our ancestors can significantly increase intellectual performance. .. in difficult situations such as job interviews or exams this is an easy technique to use to increase success”.

Source: The Psychologist

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