If you win a lot of races, you might be better at it than you think.
I recently listened to a Radiolab episode about deception that aired back in 2010 (yes, I am behind.)
You can listen by clicking on the picture above.
I found the entire episode interesting, but the part that intrigued me the most was a short segment at the end about self-deception and athletic performance. I won’t go into all of the details, but Joanna Starek (a psychologist and former competitive swimmer) wanted to know what separated the very best athletes from the rest: if several athletes all had the exact same physiological capacity, what was it that allowed certain athletes to out-perform the others time and time again?
She took a group of competitive swimmers (who were all trying to swim a specific qualifying time by the end of the season) and had them fill out a questionnaire designed to test for self-deceptive tendencies. At the end of the season, she found that the athletes with the fastest times were the same ones whose questionnaire results showed that they were very good at lying to themselves.
When preparing for competition, athletes often tell themselves things like, “I am invincible,” and “I am the best.” I guess the difference is that the ones who come out on top truly believe these affirmations.
Unfortunately, the story didn’t offer any insight into how to become better at self-deception.