Altering Mental States
IN THIS PART OF THE REPORT WE DISCUSSseveral approaches to the alteration of a person's mental state, presumably in order to enhance performance. The emphasis in this part is on changes in feelings and attitudes, rather than on changes in knowledge, as in Part II.
The four chapters represent a sampling of procedures or strategies intended to accomplish such changes. Each approach is the subject of a considerable body of research designed to evaluate effects or to provide an understanding of the underlying psychological mechanisms responsible for the effects. Each is also used widely in applied settings in which performance problems receive special attention. Much of the relevant research is summarized with an eye on implications for practice.
Of all the approaches to altering mental states, the one that is currently receiving the most attention is subliminal perception and learning. Chapter 6 addresses the idea of subliminal learning through audio cassette tapes, which has been widely marketed and promoted as a solution to a host of performance and attitudinal problems. In this chapter the committee evaluates these assertions in the context of psychological theory and available experimental evidence.
Chapter 7 considers meditation, a time-honored practice engaged in by millions of people who share the mystical religious traditions of Eastern countries. Meditation has also gained popularity in the West, where claims have been made for it as a technique that en-
hances performance. A number of studies have been conducted that address these claims. The evidence discussed in this chapter leads to conclusions about its effectiveness.
Pain as both a physiological and psychological reaction is the topic of Chapter 8. Encouraging evidence from psychological studies suggest ways to manage the feelings associated with acute and chronic pain. If effective, these strategies can increase a person's chances to survive under very difficult circumstances. They can also contribute more generally to an improved quality of life. In this chapter the committee surveys what is known about pain and its management, concluding with some guidance on approaches likely to be effective.
Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 deal with the intriguing topic of deception and its detection. We have learned quite a bit from experimental studies about the physical manifestations of deception. The literature surveyed demonstrates that a number of nonverbal behaviors signal when a person is lying. The review also calls attention to problems of detection and offers some strategies for improving accuracy. The insights derived from these studies may be quite useful for training people for positions in which sensitivity to possible dissimulation is essential. This is not to argue, however, that these insights are sufficiently definitive to be a basis for developing a training manual. Expanding the concept further, Chapter 10 discusses several broad frameworks for understanding the conditions under which individuals from different cultural backgrounds are likely to be caught lying.
Each of the chapters raises a number of interesting questions for research done in both laboratory or field settings.