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The Expectation Effect

How Your Mindset Can Change Your World

David Robson

Henry Holt and Co.

The Expectation Effect Download image

ISBN10: 1250827639
ISBN13: 9781250827630


336 Pages



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You’ve heard of the placebo effect and how sugar pills can accelerate healing. But did you know that sham heart surgeries often work just as well as placing real stents? Or that people who think they’re particularly prone to cardiovascular disease are four times as likely to die from cardiac arrest? Such is the power and deadly importance of the expectation effect—how what we think will happen changes what does happen.

Melding neuroscience with narrative, science journalist David Robson takes readers on a deep dive into the many life zones the expectation effect permeates. We see how people who believe stress is beneficial become more creative when placed under strain. We see how associating aging with wisdom can add seven plus years to your life. People say seeing is believing but, over and over, Robson proves that the converse is truer: believing is seeing.

The Expectation Effect is not woo-woo. You cannot think your way into a pile of money or out of a cancer diagnosis. But just because magical thinking is nonsense doesn’t mean rational magic doesn’t exist. Pointing to accepted psychology and objective physiology, Robson gives us the practical takeaways we need to improve our fitness, productivity, intelligence, and happiness. Any reader who wants to take their fate into their own hands need only pick up this book.


Praise for The Expectation Effect

“Mind-changing science . . . One of Robson’s many strengths as a chronicler of science is to take what might seem familiar and show . . . just how much deeper the rabbit hole goes . . . The book abounds in compelling anecdotes . . . Robson’s central point is that the expectation effect isn’t an amusing psychological quirk, but a fundamental aspect of our interactions with reality . . . The result of marinating for a while in this outlook is surprisingly transformative.”—Oliver Burkeman, New York Times bestselling author of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, reviewing for The Guardian (UK)

“[V]isionary, original, and exciting, like all the best science writing.”—Will Storr, author of The Science of Storytelling

“As David Robson makes plain in this compelling book, the way we think about the world can profoundly shape how we navigate it. Based in science and packed with smart advice, The Expectation Effect will expand your mind—and maybe even extend your life.”—Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and To Sell Is Human

“This is an utterly riveting and transformative book. You can’t afford not to read it!”—Nigella Lawson

“A fascinating, optimistic, and empowering book. David Robson uses science and stories to show the extent to which we are shaped by our beliefs, and how the predictive power of our brains influences pain, diet, sleep, exercise, and intelligence.”—Dr. Monty Lyman, author of The Remarkable Life of the Skin and The Painful Truth

“Authoritative, measured, practical, and encouraging, it will change your attitude to life’s challenges.”—Dr. Christian Jarrett, author of Be Who You Want

“An intriguing account of the role of expectation (and perception in general) in a wide panorama of experience. Beautifully written, science-based, and a gripping read. I loved it!”—Dr. Mithu Storoni, author of Stress-Proof

“The consistently brilliant David Robson is back, packed with science, stories, and practical tips for anyone who wants to make better use of the remarkable body–mind connection.”—Kerry Daynes, bestselling author of The Dark Side of the Mind and What Lies Buried

“This book is entertaining, eye-opening, extremely useful, and best of all, evidence-based.”—Claudia Hammond, author of The Art of Rest

The Expectation Effect is a must-read book that shows how we can all use our brainpower to improve our lives. Whether it’s medicine, anxiety, exercise, or diet, David Robson seamlessly and engagingly explores how what we expect to happen has a much larger role than we might have previously believed—and we can tap into that power to improve our own well-being . . . If you want to learn how to reframe your mindset, to feel healthier and happier in the process, this book is for you.”—Melissa Hogenboom, author of The Motherhood Complex

“How on Earth does a person pack in so much research and yet still make it fascinating and fun to read? Through the perfect mix of stories, stats, and science, David Robson makes a very persuasive case that what we expect has a significant material impact on our lives—and how we can harness this to live longer, happier, healthier, more successful lives.”—James Wallman, author of Stuffocation and Time and How to Spend It

“The human brain, according to this absorbing book, has a mind of its own . . . Cutting-edge research and effective storytelling create an insightful book on an ever changing field.”—Kirkus Reviews

“As a counter to the many ‘pseudoscientific’ self-help books about the power of expectations (most notably, The Secret), Robson investigates the ‘expectation effect’ through peer-reviewed experiments and studies . . . there are plenty of valuable takeaways . . . a fine place to start for readers interested in the power of the mind.”—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

David Robson

David Robson is an award-winning science writer based in the United Kingdom. A graduate of Cambridge University, he previously worked as an editor at New Scientist and a senior journalist at the BBC. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Men's Health, the Psychologist, the Washington Post, and many other publications. His first book, The Intelligence Trap, was published in 2019 and has been translated into fifteen languages.

Kirill Kozlov

David Robson

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