Notes From Ed Text

The Skinny/Fat Mirror Phenomenon and the Positive/Negative Reinforcement Ratio


Recently, I was talking with my wife about the mirror phenomenon, and how there can be “skinny mirrors” and “fat mirrors”. Unless the mirror was made perfectly, the flaws in its construction can cause the reflected image to appear thinner or wider than the object may be in real life. Over time, most mirrors develop flaws based on their weight, design and how they are hung. (We see this taken to the extreme in funhouse mirrors at carnivals.) Therefore, if you were to look into a skinny mirror, you would appear more svetle, while the reflected image in a fat mirror would be more robust.

If you could choose your mirror flaw, what would you prefer? Does your answer say something about yourself?

Your preference has something to do with your mindset and your relationship with positive and negative reinforcement–a relationship that has a basis in behavioral science.

“I think of positive emotions as nutrients,” says Professor Barbara Fredrickson, a social psychologist from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. “In the same way that we need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to be healthy, we need a variety of positive emotions in our daily experience to help us become more resourceful versions of ourselves.”

The ratio of positive to negative emotions is an important dimension to happiness and success, and while definitive numbers remain fuzzy with Professor Fredrickson’s research, the 1995 book “Meaningful Differences” by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risely put optimal success at a 5:1 ratio, meaning parents praising their children five times to every one criticism will yield the best results.

Because a skinny mirror makes you think you’re better than you are, and a fat mirror provides a harsher look at yourself, which would give you the better chance at success? If you take into account the behavioral science aspect of this question, then five glimpses into a skinny mirror for every one glimpse into a fat mirror is the way to go!

Which type of mirror is your “go to”? When it comes to gauging your progress toward your Bold Goals, would you rather be hard on yourself or receive a positive boost? Which would keep you going better?

I previously wrote about the paradox of seeing routines as rewards or punishments, and how mindset plays a role in how we frame these things. The mirror phenomenon is different, as it concerns positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and how we respond to both.

As for me, give me the skinny mirror. I want more positivity in my life. The world hands me plenty of negative emotions to deal with!


P.S. Did you check out my story on Bold Business about the work-from-home vs. back-to-the-office debate? If not, check it out–it’s a must-read!

P.P.S. PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success is a complete system for planning your life to get what you want, and has been a top seller in three categories: “Motivational Growth & Spirituality”, “Personal Success & Spirituality” and “Management Skills”. I hope you check it out if you have not purchased a copy.

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Ed Kopko

Project Bold Life

Ed Kopko with his book Project Bold Life
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