President Donald Trump starts his day going through a folder of good news and flattering photos of himself. Every day staffers put together a folder of positive news coverage for the president to look through in the morning. Reportedly labeled the “propaganda document,” “the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful,” according to Vice News.
Now, we’re not suggesting you spend your morning looking at photos of yourself. But we do want to point out there’s a range of studies that show how the information and imagery you expose yourself to can impact how you perform. Looking at something positive in the morning can have a positive impact on how you feel and perform the rest of the day.
For instance, a 2015 study analyzed a group of people who watched negative news before 10 a.m. and another group who watched inspirational and “solution-focused” news. The researchers found that people who watched negative news in the morning were 27 percent more likely to report being unhappy later in the day.
Being exposed to positive images can impact your productivity levels and performance as well. Professors at Tufts University conducted a study showing how a simple image of a light bulb can boost a person’s problem-solving capabilities. Participants in that study were shown to have enhanced skills when it came to solving spatial, verbal and mathematical problems. Using the lightbulb image, which is often associated with an “Aha!” moment, the researchers uncovered how a “cultural artifact” can improve a person’s abilities in other forms, in this case problem-solving.
At work here, in part, is priming, a form of memory that deals with how interacting with something can unconsciously affect behavior and actions later. Each day, your behavior is likely impacted by a range of sights and sounds in ways you’re not even aware of.
If you’re looking to take advantage of priming, know that some images can have different impacts depending on the situation. For instance, one well-known study analyzed groups of people working in a call center. One group was primed with an image of people just like them, making calls. Another group was given a traditional “achievement” photo — an image of a woman winning a marathon. Employees who had seen the context-specific image, the people in the call center focusing at the task at hand, raised more money than those who’d been primed with the race photo.
Another study found that priming female speakers with images of powerful female leaders such as Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton made those speakers feel more confident and helped them perform better. Women primed with Merkel’s photo did especially well, and better than when exposed to a male role model or no role model at all.
As you can see, finding something that resonates can be essential. We’re guessing neither Merkel’s or Clinton’s photos would likely have the same impact on President Trump, so remember to find images that work for you.