Logos of UniversitiesIn certain issues, adults are more rebellious than children and turn defensive when their irrational behaviour is talked about. Like if someone is told that a certain of their behaviours is harmful to themselves or others, it will not be heeded by them.

A new experiment by Jennifer Crocker and Yu Niiya, from the University of Michigan and Dominik Mischkowski, from the University of Konstanz, shows that reflecting on values can encourage love and acceptance and reduce defensiveness. Making people reflect on their values can make them accept information that shows that certain behaviour of theirs is irrational, irresponsible, or unhealthy.

While previous research’s too proved the same thing, this experiment has a completely different story to tell! Initially, the studies in the past showed reflecting on values made people accept facts that they normally wouldn’t because they felt good about themselves.

How? – That was a puzzling question which was left unanswered by researchers. This time the latest study has an answer. It says that writing about one’s values and important priorities in life make people more accepting because they tend to think about the people whom they care beyond themselves and feel connected.

If things are still unclear to you, then here is how the experiment was conducted and what it is all about.

The researchers conducted two studies. In the first one, they asked participants to rank six values – social life, religion/morality, science, business, arts, and government. Two groups were set up. The first group wrote for 10 minutes about that were more important to them and why so. The second group wrote about the value that was unimportant to them but must be important to others. Then, the participants rated how much the writing exercise made them feel love, empathetic or brought out other emotions.

The next study consisted of participants that were smokers and non-smokers. They too were made to write on important and unimportant values. However, after this they were made to read a fake article on negative effects of smoking on heart.

The results obtained from both the studies show a significant difference. In the first study the ones who wrote on important values said that they felt more of love and affection and empathy than the ones who wrote on unimportant values. While in the second study, the smokers who wrote on important values were less defensive and accepting towards the fact that smoking was harmful to them, than the ones who wrote on unimportant values.

“These studies raise the prospect that reminding people what they love or care about may enable them to transcend the self and may foster learning under difficult circumstances,” according to the authors who have their study published in the July issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The love and feeling connected that the participants feel has been credited to hormones like oxytocin that are associated with trust and care giving that reduces defensiveness in people who thought about the values important for them.