Invisibilia and the Power of Expectations

I am, as you likely know, something of a podcast addict. Given that I am often in the car two to two-and-a-half hours a day, that probably makes sense. Beyond that, this is a great time to be commuting, if you like podcasts at least, because we are entering some of a new “golden age” in the world of radio and podcasts, given the plethora of shows available.

This morning, as I was catching up on a favorite – This American Life – I was introduced to a new podcast, Invisibilia, which is Latin for “all the invisible things” and is, in the “about” post on the podcast’s website, “explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” Invisibilia is from NPR and is hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel.

This American Life highlighted the show by running what I assume is something of a pilot episode entitled “Batman.” But the show isn’t about bats or superheroes – at least not directly – as it is about expectations and the power of expectations to either lift or limit us.

We’re likely not totally unfamiliar with this. We’re probably familiar with the power of labeling in schools, where kids labeled as “smart” get treated in a way that encourages them to do their best work (and influences how others perceive them as well) and kids labeled as “dumb” experience the opposite. Maybe we’ve experienced the power of labels and expectations – those of our own and others – in our own lives.

But I’m guessing that we’re not totally aware, or perhaps even prepared to believe – just how powerful those expectations can be. For instance – and this is what the show is about – would you believe that part of the reason people who are physically blind can’t see is because we expect them not to? Or to reverse that, would you believe that some people who are physically blind but were expected to make it through the world without help and to experience and map and understand the world on their can be said to have learned to see?

I know, a little mind blowing. I can’t do the topic or the show justice here, but I can invite you to listen to it.  Click on below if you’re interested and, trust me, it’s well worth the hour of your time it asks.

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