69 Awesome Brain Hacks That Give You Mind-Blowing Powers
We don’t know much about computer hacking here at Cracked, because that stuff involves numbers, but we’ve come across a whole bunch of different crazy brain and body hacks over the years. The following pages will help you change reality for yourself and others, stop pain by coughing, and even make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex. Years of gathered wisdom are at your disposal. Read on:
If You Avoid Thinking About the Future, You Get Better at Everything
Consider the tenses past, present, and future. The difference between the sentences “Bob is at the store buying nachos” and “Bob will go to the store to buy nachos” has explicit implications about how far we are from eating nachos. That is need-to-know information. But it may be surprising that some languages don’t have a future tense, or it’s not obligatory. In Mandarin, for example, it’s fine to say something like “Bob store buy nachos,” and nobody will make fun of your caveman speech or slap you in the mouth because you didn’t immediately specify the time frame of nacho delivery.
One might think that speakers of such languages would just be wandering around confused, utterly unmoored from time as we know it, hurtling obliviously through chronology with no anchors to tether them, screaming into the void as history whips pas-
No? They’re totally fine?
Huh. It turns out that speakers of these tenseless languages actually make far better decisions than tense-language speakers, about virtually everything.
For example, a study by Keith Chen of Yale Business School analyzed data from 76 countries, focusing on things like saving money, smoking and exercise habits, and general health. The surprising result was that cultures in which most people speak languages without a future tense make better health and financial decisions overall. In fact, it found that speaking a tensed language, like English, made people 30 percent less likely to save money. It is thought that speakers of such languages, whom we shall call Untensers, see their lives as less of a timeline and more of a whole. Therefore they are automatically more mindful of how their decisions will affect their futures than we savage, primitive Tensers. Strangely, it seems that thinking of “the future” as being some far-off place, removed from the realities of our daily lives, makes us more likely to buy that second Xbox just because the first looked lonely.
Untensers consistently accumulate more wealth, hold onto it for longer periods of time, are healthier, and live longer than Tensers, for whom the past is something we’ve left behind, and the future is like a distant planet where consequences live that we don’t fully intend to visit.
Music Changes Your Ability to Perceive Time
Hold music — the stuff you hear on the line when you call everyone from the bank to your local bail bond agency — didn’t fall into America’s phone lines by accident. It’s designed specifically to reduce the amount of time you think you’re waiting, so that you’re less likely to hang up in anger. Other places that involve waiting, such as doctors’ offices, use a similar trick. Time shrinkage is also the aim of most retail stores, which is why you’ll rarely enter a mall, supermarket or clothing store without hearing some sort of music in the background.
How Does It Work?
To understand why exactly music makes it seem like less time has passed, think of the human brain as a mountain lion that is eating a bag of money. It doesn’t matter what the zookeepers distract it with — food, shiny objects or just shouting and yelling. All that matters is that they give another zookeeper the chance to sneak up and retrieve the money while the lion is busy deciding which one of them to eat.
Similarly, when your brain is steadily distracted, you’ll be less likely to notice things around you in detail, and this includes the passage of time. Our brains have limited input capacity, and when something else is using up that capacity, we’re less likely to think things like, “I’ve been standing in line to get Richard Moll’s autograph for three goddamn hours” or “Do I really need this Garfield alarm clock?”
But it works the opposite way, too. In some situations, listening to music can actually expand perceived time. For example, listening to music while performing tasks that require concentration will usually cause us to overestimate the amount of time that has passed. The theory is that as your mind switches back and forth between perception of the music and concentration on the challenging tasks, it forms separate “events,” or distinct memories. When your brain thinks about what you’ve been doing for the past hour, you’ll remember more of these events and recall that the hour was quite long.
Experiments have found that time also expands when we’re listening to familiar music that we dislike.
When we hear the opening chords of a song, our brain remembers the whole thing and immediately skips ahead and plays it mentally. This fake mind-music is extremely vivid, working on exactly the same parts of the brain as actual music does. So the effect is that you take a few moments to vividly imagine that you’re sitting through five minutes of that damn New Radicals song before you come back to reality only to realize that you still actually have to sit through it.
Change the Reality of a Situation by Changing How It’s Phrased
You’re probably already aware that minor changes to the wording of a survey can alter people’s opinions. During the health care debate in 2010, for example, four separate organizations conducted polls to see what percentage of Americans supported a so-called “public option.” Their results ranged from a measly 44 percent to 66 percent support, due in large part to differences in wording. Calling it a “government administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get” garnered 66 percent support. And calling it “a government-run health insurance plan” plummeted support to 44 percent. Calling it “Just what Mussolini would have wanted” reduced the number to 2 percent.
You might think that it’s just a matter of people not actually understanding how the system works (“I said I wanted Medicare, not GOVERNMENT!”), but it really is all about how the brain can be manipulated with very subtle differences in wording, regardless of your knowledge level.
In this study, social psychologists sent out surveys to several hundred registered voters before an election. Half the recipients were asked if it was “important to vote.” The other half were asked if it was “important to be a voter.” With this one difference, the people who read the word “voter” were nearly 14 percent more likely to actually vote on Election Day. The researchers suspected that using the word “voter” caused people to identify themselves with the word. Since these people considered themselves to be voters, they were more likely to get out and vote.
You’ve been manipulated this way all your life, and now it’s time to start manipulating back. Don’t ask your friend with the truck if he can help move your mattress; ask if he’ll participate in a community-supported housing initiative. Don’t ask the cop to let you off for speeding; ask if Officer Gives-a-Shit doesn’t want to stimulate the local economy via a highly targeted middle-class tax break. Getting your way is easy when you let your words do the weaseling for you.
Music Makes You Stronger
It’s no secret that many people prefer to listen to music when they work out. But music doesn’t just make physical activity more pleasant — it actually makes our physical performance measurably better. When listening to music, people are able to hold heavy weights for longer than when they’re standing in silence. They can also complete sprints in smaller amounts of time and are even able to reduce their oxygen intake.
How Does It Work?
Similar to the time-perception effect we referenced above, one element is just plain old distraction. Obviously, if your mind is listening to music, it’s not thinking about how much your legs hurt or how much longer you’ve got to run before the treadmill makes that final beeping noise. But there’s much more to it than that.
First, there’s synchronicity. When you match your movements to a steady musical tempo, you spend less time and effort on the inefficient slowing down and speeding up that happens when you’re going by your own rhythm. Music also increases the incidence of “flow” states — states of meditation-like calm in which everything works right for an athlete and that is strongly linked to enhanced performance.
Music can even make you feel less pain. Patients listening to music after surgery need less sedatives, report less pain and have lower blood pressure. As if that’s not impressive enough, doctors have found that specially selected melodic music dramatically reduces stress in patients during unsedated brain surgery. In some cases, music caused patients to relax so much that many of them fell into a deep sleep, while people sliced into their exposed brains with fucking scalpels.
And even if you’re lucky enough to be asleep during surgery, there’s a good chance the doctors working on you are listening to music, since most surgeons believe it improves their performance, too. So the next time you’re about to go under a general anesthetic, consider the fact that the guy with the scalpel might soon be timing his incisions to Whitesnake.
Your Hand Is a Poor Man’s Night-Vision Goggles
Thinking You Smell Good Makes You More Attractive
Entire multibillion-dollar industries are built upon the idea that smelling good gets you dates (smell can also influence who you’re attracted to). But when we say that your sense of smell can make a man more attractive to the ladies, we’re not just pointing out that a quick sniff test of one’s clothing before heading out is a reliable start on the path of not dying alone. And we’re not talking about those pheromone sprays that promise to make women ignore the crumbs caught in your neckbeard.
No, this is weirder.
In a recent study conducted by the University of Liverpool, they had some guys spray themselves with Lynx (the English version of Axe Body Spray). Then they had women rate the men’s attractiveness … via videotape. As in, they were out of smelling range. The men who sprayed themselves down were still rated as more attractive, even though the women couldn’t smell them.
According to the scientists running the experiment, the power was inside the men the whole time. The guys given the scented spray figured they smelled good, so their body language displayed more confidence, and the women who watched them responded to that.
So does this mean these dudes were just brainwashed by Lynx’s marketing campaign? They actually believed the ads that claim spraying this stuff will have women diving for their junk?
Nope — the can of spray used in the experiment was unmarked, so the men had no idea what kind of deodorant they were covering themselves with. It seems like pretty much anything that doesn’t actually smell like mustard gas will do the trick. It turns out the amazing mind-control powers of smell aren’t about making the girl at the bar swoon — it’s about tricking yourself into having a little confidence for once.
Filling Your Cubicle With Personal Crap Makes You Productive
Nobody else likes the personal crap you fill your desk with at work. That “inspirational” picture of you and your mom climbing Mount McKinley is trite and forgettable. Oh, and that picture of your girlfriend with the lyrics to “Wonderwall” printed beneath it? Do you even know what that song’s about? Clearly not, because no one does.
And yet, somehow, this asinine behavior hacks your brain.
How? Tell Me!
Having control over one small, utterly inconsequential aspect of our lives improves our productivity by 32 percent. Learning this is a real shot to the nuts for your adolescent sense of rebellion. Faceless corporations (man) can cram us into our upholstered prisons like sardines in a can, but we’ll still do their bidding as long as they give us a crayon to color the wall with. The unvarnished truth is that our supposedly indomitable spirits (man) can be domitabled with as little as a roll of double-sided tape, some glitter, a color printer, and five minutes’ access to our Facebook photo albums.
Truly, the spirit of the revolution is dead. Maaan.
You Can Feel Like You Had a Good Night’s Sleep After Two Hours
So you just picked up the night shift at your local McDonald’s, you have class every morning at 8 a.m., and you have no idea how you’re going to make it through the day without looking like a guy straight out of Dawn of the Dead, minus the blood … hopefully.
What if we told you there was a way to sleep for little more than two hours a day and still feel more refreshed than taking a 12-hour siesta on a bed made entirely out of baby kitten fur? No more sneaking naps at the fry station for you!
How? Tell Me!
It’s called the Uberman Sleep Schedule, and besides having a totally badass name, it’s a way to get the maximum amount of essential sleep for your body without wasting hours of precious time you could be using to work or drink or farm for World of Warcraft gold. The schedule consists of taking six 20- to 30-minute power naps every four hours during the day. Of course, this new sleep pattern blows donkey-dick to get used to, but it’s a price you have to pay to basically extend your waking life by several years.
The best way to start it off is to jump right in. Get to sleep at 8 p.m., set your alarm for 8:30. Get up, play some Call of Duty, sleep again at 12, alarm at 12:30, and so on. After three or four days of this, you will start to get high as fuck because of sleep deprivation, and you might just want to kill yourself, but don’t do it! That would be absolutely counterproductive.
By day 10 or so, your brain will say, “Fuck! FINE, we’ll do it your way,” and will adapt to your new superhuman sleep schedule. When you sleep normally, your body gets only about an hour and a half of REM sleep, the kind of sleep that is thought to be the most important to keeping your brain sharp. While other stages of sleep help your body to heal and grow, the REM sleep is what makes you feel rested.
The first few days of adjusting are tough because your body isn’t getting ANY of this REM sleep, and your brain hates you for it. After the third day, or so, your brain figures out that you mean business, and every time you lie down for one of these naps, it dives directly into REM sleep in an attempt to compensate for the deprivation. Do some quick math and that’s two full hours of REM sleep, while those who sleep normally are only getting an hour and a half.
Before you know it, while the rest of the world snores away, you’ll be up and drawing dicks on their faces.
Sports Drinks Work (and You Don’t Even Need to Drink Them)
Sports drinks are a huge business — Gatorade alone makes well over a billion dollars a year. And the reason so many athletes swear by them is the promise of increased performance, replacing all those vital nutrients lost during exercise, just like the ads say.
It turns out, however, that all that electrolyte and rehydration technology is nothing compared to the simple pleasure of having a bunch of sugar in your mouth.
A study found that sports drinks work because they activate the pleasure center of your brain. You don’t even have to drink them, just swishing some around in your mouth and spitting it out has the same effect.
The carbohydrates in the drink stimulate receptors in your mouth that then send your brain messages that things are all totally cool. Your brain, in turn, becomes more active in the pleasure center, allowing you to enjoy feeling the burn far longer than some idiot without a sugary drink. It also stimulates the part of your brain in charge of movement control. So not only will you be content while kicking your water-drinking opponent’s ass, you’ll actually be kicking it harder.
Trick Your Brain into Thrift by Paying With Cash
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