Why Researchers Are Thinking About State Of Mind Instead Of Personality

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She has bachelor's degrees in journalism and english literature from Boston University.
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Image by Jeremy Pawlowski / Stocksy

We talk a lot about personality and how it affects decisions, relationships, and, really, how one moves through the world. But what if there was another controlling factor in our behaviors—one that's more dynamic?

A recent study published in Trends in Cognitive Science, proposes forgoing the traditional idea of personality for a more encompassing "state of mind" approach, especially when looking at how our minds adapt to different situations.

What do they mean by "state of mind"?

Our minds are flexible, and while we speak of personality, more often our state of mind may be a better indicator of a person at any given moment. The findings of this study bring us closer to understanding how our mindset changes based on external contributions.

The authors of the study suggest that our state of mind is actually a more holistic force that affects our perception, attention, thoughts, and behaviors. They explain their hypothesis for state of mind like a web of interacting components that cause a sort of domino effect of change as our mind addresses a given situation.

The determining factors for state of mind proposed by the researchers are prior experiences combined with our sensory experience of a situation. While we typically place more value on how our personality affects our responses and interactions, this model for state of mind as the crucial controller in responses is more flexible—and therefore more easy to manipulate.

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How is this applicable?

The researchers suggest that this potential for manipulation of state of mind can be beneficial. By becoming aware of the factors involved in determining our state of mind, we can influence our response and performance to maximize our desired outcome.

Essentially, state of mind in place of personality implies that we can all successfully switch between different styles of tasks. While we have previously linked certain personalities to different career fields, the concept of state of mind presented by researchers in this paper, when manipulated, can be used to adapt between creative and more analytical tasks depending on what is at hand.

"We are dynamic and versatile organisms, adapted to fit multiple scenarios and numerous situations," said Moshe Bar, Ph.D. "Unlike what intuition might have us believe, our mind is not fixed, and our operation is not consistent."

This new perspective on our mind offers the potential to change the way we think about ourselves and others and how we think about job roles and other rigid structures based on personality. Taking advantage of this breakthrough requires that we change our mindset for thinking about our minds.

We know all about the power of mindset in helping with encouraging better eating habits or to help us achieve goals, so we're all about this new idea that state of mind can be a more broad system change for our minds.

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