Wegner, D. e. (May 1998). The Putt and the Pendulum: Ironic Effects of mental Control of Action. Psychological Science Vol. 9 No 3, pages 196 - 201.
In his study, Daniel Wegner dealt with the priming of negative words in the language. The Canadian social psychologist requested the subjects to hold a pendulum. He instructed one group: “Hold the pendulum steady!”, and said to the other group: “The pendulum should not swing sideways!”…
In sports psychology, this effect has been known for a long time and has been specifically used in mental training for the preparation of an athletic performance. In hypnosis, therapists similarly use the priming of words for the well-being of their clients and patients. Thus the hypnotherapist or the hypno-coach associates for a hypnotized person, who is in the depth of a trance, the word “calm” over and over again with the perception of a dental treatment. Thus in case of this person, a “relaxed” bodily experience primes the way into that associative network, which has stored all the information for the visit to the dentist.
Even the handling of negative words in the language has a noteworthy priming effect. Thus, under the direction of the Canadian social psychologist Daniel Wegner, the test subjects were requested to hold a pendulum. One group was verbally given the task to “keep the pendulum steady” and another group was instructed: “The pendulum should not swing sideways”. Apparently, it is not so easy for a person to hold a pendulum completely steady. But in the “Swing-Ban-Group”, the pendulum moved back and forth far more than the “Hold Steady” group, in their case, there were minimum oscillations. The word “swinging” simply primes a path, in a human brain, to a movement – whether with or without the embedded word “not” - and only through the word “steady”, the hand lets the pendulum hang vertically (Wegner, 1998). On this phenomenon, Daniel Wegner also published a book worth reading “Die Spirale im Kopf: von der Hartnäckigkeit unerwünschter Gedanken - die Psychologie der mentalen Kontrolle [The spirals in the head: The stubbornness of unwanted thoughts – the psychology of mental control” (Wegner D., 1995).