Smile and you’ll feel better; wear a black shirt and you’ll be more aggressive; clench your fist and you’ll increase your willpower. The idea of the 19th-century philosopher William James that "If you want a quality, act as if you already have it," is increasingly gaining ground as social science research shows that the relationship between our behaviour and our mind is a two-way street: not only do our feelings affect how we behave, but how we behave affects how we feel.
Richard Wiseman has successfully crossed a self-help book with a popular science book and produced a work that will not only help people with understanding the James’s ‘As if’ principle, but it should also help people change aspects of their own lives.
There are practical techniques scattered throughout the book; Wiseman even wants his readers to change the way they read the book. He invites readers to ‘rip it up’ as they use pages from the book as the basis of exercises. Although for those who feel that is just a step too far (or have an e-version of the book), the requisite pages are also available on his web site.
In the conclusion of the book Wiseman emphasises that the ‘As If’ principle offers the possibility of being psychology’s first unifying theory. This alone should be enough to pique anyone’s interest in the ‘As if’ principle, and Wiseman’s book has made the principle accessible to everyone.