The Bling Buoy

A buoyant blog to cling to as you navigate the waters of life!

Rats

Written By: Misha - Jul• 31•12

Once upon a time, before Alicia Silverstone posed nude for PETA, a clever scientist called Rosenthal tenderly tended to a squeaky collection of lab rats.  After the little rats scoffed down their delectable camembert feast, he carefully separated them into two groups.

Group one consisted of the super-brainy, smarty pants rodents, while Group two contained your average neighbourhood “beer short of a 6 pack”, garden variety rats.  He set up two identical mazes and brought out his eager science students to train the rats to go through the maze.

So… which group do you think did better?  The know-it-all rats or the Mickey mouses?

If you’re waiting for a shock answer here, you’ll be sadly disappointed.  Because the gifted rats did much better in the maze mastery test than their less intellectually endowed friends.

I know.

Another science experiment that sits up there with the one that found that after you have kids, you do more housework and sleep less.  Sigh.  And also, yawn.

But wait!  I was just about to slam that ole textbook shut when my eyes flicked over the next paragraph.  Apparently there was no such thing as a smart or stupid rat, at least in Rosenthal’s ratty collection.  Instead, Rosenthal had randomly divided his rats into two groups. They were equally brilliant.  Or not so much.  The only difference was in what he told his science students.  In other words he LIED to them, telling them that one group contained gifted rats while the other group contained stupid rats.

In an interesting turn of events, it seemed that the students unconsciously influenced the performance of their rats, based on their expectations of how the rats would perform.  If they expected their rats to do well, then they did.  If they expected them to become hopelessly lost in the maze, then they generally did.

Oh the ramifications of this little gem.

From now on, my expectation will be that all of my children are genius athletes who will keep their bedrooms impeccably tidy at all times!

And as for my expectations of myself… I will always look impeccably groomed, in my immaculately clean home while being cheerful at all times and working 6 hours a night whilst my perfect family is slumbering soundly.  That is, after spending 4 hours at the gym of course.

Hmmm.

I don’t question Rosenthal’s findings.  It’s true that if you set high expectations of yourself and others, you are inclined to meet them.  But at what cost?  Exhaustion, fear of failure, anxiety, guilt?  I’m not sure I want that for my children.  Or for myself.

We aren’t lab rats.  Or at least we shouldn’t be made to feel like one.  Lab rats generally don’t navel gaze about their expectations of themselves or others.  They just get on with the job of scampering through the fields collecting grains, making a gazillion babies, gnawing through the electrical cables of houses, scaring the camembert out of late night bloggers and taunting their less than gifted cats.

They don’t set out to become the fastest maze runner.  It’s someone else who smacks that expectation onto them and I suspect that it doesn’t make them that happy.

The rat race is an inevitable part of life.  We need to race to survive.  But I wonder if sometimes we scurry around a million mazes more than we need to because we’re conforming to society’s unrealistic expectations of us, rather than what is truly required.

“Happiness equals reality minus expectations”  Tom Magliozzi

Sometimes I think we’re better off clamouring over the occasional maze wall and escaping to the hills with a big wedge of camembert, don’t you?

Do you feel under pressure to conform to unrealistic expectations, or do you march to the beat of your own drum?

 

Back with the lovely Jess from Diary of a SAHM for #iBOT…

 

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30 Comments

  1. kirri says:

    Who can take a rat experiment and turn it into an interesting, enjoyable read on the complexities of human nature and behavior? Misha! Brilliant. I love reading your work :)

  2. Kim-Marie says:

    Hand over that cheese! Love your take on this!

  3. I love this, what an interesting read. I had once read of an experiment that they told people their IQ’s an set them out into the world. The high IQ people achieved some great things. It turned out they had normal IQ but believed they were smart and did well.
    Rachel x

  4. MsMandie says:

    Love this, Misha! You’re so right – I’m all for high expectations, but I think they need to be realistic expectations, too. I think it’s so important to experience success, as it’s positive, motivating and excellent for resilience building and I find in myself that success is best met when my expectations are realistic. It’s taken me some time to learn that, and sometimes I still fall victim to my own unrealistic expectations, and just end up burnt out.

    I’m also soooo up for jumping the fence with a good slab of camembert!

  5. Lyndal says:

    love love LOVE this! And how true is it – definitely a great reminder to not come under others judgements etc

    #teamIBOT

  6. Cassandra says:

    Love this! In a world where so many people are trying to keep up with the Jones’ with their new big shiny and fancy house and having to work extra hard to pay for all this… in the end, how many of these people are ACTUALLY happy and content? Of course, I have wants, but those wants are my own and not what society or the media say they should be.
    I definitely travel to the beat of my own drum… despite the fact that I have no rhythym what so ever! 😀

  7. Penny says:

    I’m up for camembert, so I’m with you. Let’s ditch this maze!

    This was a fantastic post Misha. So interesting and I loved your own spin on social behavior.

  8. hehe when I read Rats.. I did not expect this post!! A very good read!

  9. salz says:

    I used to try to become like what the others expected me to be. Like them. But I always seemed to fail cause i’m not like them. They expected me to always agree with them and go along with them. But I never did. I now live in my own little world trying to still not worry about what everyone expects of me.

  10. I love this post! We put such high expectations on ourselves and the people around us. It really does my head in how much I expect from everyone and then no one delivers (including me)! It’s about time I stopped expecting it I think, and just let it go.

  11. Jess says:

    Firstly, I do not like Camembert, but the idea of running to the hills with a bottle of wine and a Mexican pizza sounds grand.

    I think generally, I march to the beat of my own drummer. Some times I feel frustrated at not being understood because of it, but I guess that’s just the price you pay?
    Other times though, I conform with the rest of the world. I guess it really depends on the situation, my self confidence and what time of the month it is. 😉

    Another Very thought provoking post.

  12. My own drum certainly bangs louder the older I get, which is a lovely side effect of aging.

  13. I love this post. And I love the sound of my own drum :)

  14. My fave IBOT post so far! What a great study! I try and live up to expectations and often run myself into the ground doing it. I tell myself that I march to the beat of my own drum but I know deep down that’s garbage, if I really did i’d spend my days in trackpants in front of the TV!

    • Misha says:

      Wouldn’t it be great if we could hang around in trackies in front of the telly! Even for just one day. Hmmm… think I’ve got my weekend sorted 😉

  15. Grace says:

    Misha, I love, love love this! And that quote is just brilliant!
    I used to put so much pressure on myself, thinking that I was just striving to be a “better person” (whatever the hell that meant).
    It’s taken a while (and I still have the occasional hiccup) but I’m getting stronger in beating that drum of mine :) x

  16. Janet says:

    I so identify with you on this post. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to setting myself unrealistic expectations …

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