The world of film and literature, like the world around us, is shaped by our imaginations, according to a paper published in the American Sociological Review.
“This research suggests that our everyday experiences are often shaped by the very people we interact with in our lives,” study coauthor Laura Cavanaugh told Vox.
“In short, our daily lives are shaped by what we have been told about ourselves.”
The researchers asked students to fill out a survey about how much of their lives they have been directly influenced by “the people, places, and things they encounter in their lives,” such as “a doctor who helped them in the emergency room, a person who helped a loved one get out of a car crash, a doctor who gave them a free toothbrush, a friend who taught them to drive a car, or a person that taught them how to ride a bicycle.”
The results, which were collected on a campus survey from November 2015 to April 2017, found that the vast majority of respondents had been directly affected by a person or place in their daily lives.
The most commonly reported examples of people who were directly affected were the “people who gave you a free cup of coffee, the person who taught you how to drive, and the person that gave you the free toothpaste.”
While many people report being directly affected in the daily lives of other people, they also have positive experiences, such as the “good friend who helped me when I got into trouble, the dentist who gave me a free dental plan, and a doctor that gave me free dental care.”
“People can have negative experiences, too, but they’re not as common,” Cavanaugh said.
“We also saw that people who had negative experiences were often people who reported having experienced a negative experience themselves, such the person they met in a bar, the one they got in a fight, or the person whose boss had an affair with them.”
She said this suggests that the people we encounter in our daily experiences, and even our own thoughts and memories, are shaped through a number of factors, such positive experiences as a friend or partner, negative experiences such as being cheated on, or positive experiences such like finding a job or meeting a person of interest.
For example, a study published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that people’s positive experiences are also linked to their positive moods, so it’s not surprising that positive experiences in our everyday lives are linked to happiness.
However, this doesn’t mean that the things we do are necessarily shaped by negative experiences.
“It’s possible that the stories we tell ourselves, or other people around us about ourselves, are not just based on what’s true, but are based on our own experiences,” Cahan said.
The paper also found that experiences that are positive and negative are not always linked in the same way.
For instance, a large study conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that there is a correlation between positive experiences and feelings of positive social capital.
The researchers looked at the positive experience of “being treated well,” and found that it was also linked with “higher levels of social capital,” which means a person has a sense of belonging to a group.
They also found this correlation was stronger for positive experiences than negative experiences in people who did not have social capital in their past.
“People’s social capital is linked to the amount of people they have interacted with, whether that’s friends or strangers,” Cerny said.
This also suggests that people have a more stable sense of social identity than we usually think.
For more on social capital and self-actualization, see this article.
The study found that when it comes to the negative experience of being cheated, people with positive experiences were also more likely to report cheating themselves, while people with negative experiences reported cheating themselves more often than people who hadn’t had positive experiences.
The authors also noted that people with high levels of positive experiences tend to be more likely than others to cheat, because they have a higher level of confidence that they are the ones who have done something positive.
“These findings suggest that people can be more confident about their positive experiences if they are less confident in their negative experiences,” said Cernyn.
Cernys paper, which has been published in a journal called Social Psychological and Personality Science, suggests that we can change how we think about our experiences in the real world by creating and promoting positive experiences instead of negative ones.
She suggests that a positive life is a positive story that we tell to ourselves.
“When we have positive stories about ourselves and others, we tend to have a greater sense of being able to trust ourselves,” Carnys said.
For other ideas about what it takes to be a positive person, check out this list of 10 things to do when you’re feeling down.