There have been studies showing that thinking about where we ultimately headed (death boosts our self esteem because it causes us to search for happy thoughts. Now comes research finding that our performance is enhanced by thinking about whence we came -- our ancestors.
'Normally, our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of personal and society problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines,' the researchers said. 'So, when we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities.'The result is found even when we hold negative thoughts about our ancestors.
An initial study involved 80 undergrads spending five minutes thinking about either their fifteenth century ancestors, their great-grandparents or a recent shopping trip. Afterwards, those students in the two ancestor conditions were more confident about their likely performance in future exams, an effect that seemed to be mediated by their feeling more in control of their lives.
Three further studies showed that thinking or writing about their recent or distant ancestors led students to actually perform better on a range of intelligence tests, including verbal and spatial tasks (in one test, students who thought about their distant ancestors scored an average of 14 out of 16, compared with an average of 10 out of 16 among controls). The ancestor benefit was mediated partly by students attempting more answers - what the researchers called having a 'promotion orientation'.
Have you had the experience of being more productive when you have thought about your ancestors? What about your performance within the context of a parish -- does it help to think, "wow, this parish has been through a lot, and survived"?