Ellen J. Langer
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About Ellen J. Langer
Ellen Jane Langer (born March 25, 1947) is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, having in 1981 become the first woman ever to be tenured in psychology at Harvard. Langer studies the illusion of control, decision-making, aging, and mindfulness theory. Her most influential work is Counterclockwise, published in 2009, which answers the questions of aging from her extensive research, and increased interest in the ins and outs of aging across the nation.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Robert Scoble from Half Moon Bay, USA (Ellen Langer) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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The highly innovative findings of social psychologist Dr. Ellen J. Langer and her team of researchers at Harvard introduced a unique concept of mindfulness, adapted to contemporary life in the West. Langer's theory has been applied to a wide number of fields, including health, business, aging, social justice, and learning. There is now a new psychological assessment based on her work (called the Langer Mindfulness Scale). In her introduction to this 25th anniversary edition, Dr. Langer (now known as "the Mother of Mindfulness") outlines some of these exciting applications and suggests those still to come.
Drawing on landmark work in the field and her own body of colorful and highly original experiments–including the first detailed discussion of her “counterclockwise” study, in which elderly men lived for a week as though it was 1959 and showed dramatic improvements in their hearing, memory, dexterity, appetite, and general well-being–Langer shows that the magic of rejuvenation and ongoing good health lies in being aware of the ways we mindlessly react to social and cultural cues. Examining the hidden decisions and vocabulary that shape the medical world (“chronic” versus “acute,” “cure” versus “remission”), the powerful physical effects of placebos, and the intricate but often defeatist ways we define our physical health, Langer challenges the idea that the limits we assume and impose on ourselves are real. With only subtle shifts in our thinking, in our language, and in our expectations, she tells us, we can begin to change the ingrained behaviors that sap health, optimism, and vitality from our lives. Improved vision, younger appearance, weight loss, and increased longevity are just four of the results that Langer has demonstrated.
Immensely readable and riveting, Counterclockwise offers a transformative and bold new paradigm: the psychology of possibility. A hopeful and groundbreaking book by an author who has changed how people all over the world think and feel, Counterclockwise is sure to join Mindfulness as a standard source on new-century science and healing.
–from On Becoming an Artist
On Becoming an Artist is loaded with good news. Backed by her landmark scientific work on mindfulness and artistic nature, bestselling author and Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer shows us that creativity is not a rare gift that only some special few are born with, but rather an integral part of everyone’s makeup. All of us can express our creative impulses– authentically and uniquely–and, in the process, enrich our lives.
Why then do so many of us merely dream of someday painting, someday writing, someday making music? Why do we think the same old thoughts, harbor the same old prejudices, stay stuck in the same old mud? Who taught us to think “inside the box”?
No one is more qualified to answer these questions than Dr. Langer, who has explored their every facet for years. She describes dozens of fascinating experiments–her own and those of her colleagues–that are designed to study mindfulness and its relation to human creativity, and she shares the profound implications of the results–for our well-being, health, and happiness.
Langer reveals myriad insights, among them: We think we should already know what only firsthand experience can teach us. . . . In learning the ways that all roses are alike, we risk becoming blind to their differences. . . . If we are mindfully creative, the circumstances of the moment will tell us what to do. . . . Those of us who are less evaluatively inclined experience less guilt, less regret, less blame, and tend to like ourselves more. . . . Uncertainty gives us the freedom to discover meaning. . . . Finally, what we think we’re sure of may not even exist.
With the skill of a gifted logician, Langer demonstrates exactly how we undervalue ourselves and undermine our creativity. By example, she persuades us to have faith in our creative works, not because someone else approves of them but because they’re a true expression of ourselves. Her high-spirited, challenging book sparkles with wit and intelligence and inspires in us an infectious enthusiasm for our creations, our world, and ourselves. It can be of lifelong value to everyone who reads it.