White Paper third draft—UgandanKnuckles

Claim: Self-help mantras are effective for people with high self-clarity

Hypothesis: Mantras are helpful despite the initial belief that they are ineffective hoaxes. High self-clarity is key though, otherwise it’ll be ineffective and can make the situation worse. (Self-clarity being how well one knows themselves)

My Proposal: For my research, I’ll be investigating studies done and analyzing reviews of studies done to find out if self-help mantras are actually effective or if they are completely ineffective and just make the individual feel worse.

Proposal 2: From my current research, I have found that self-help mantras usually only help people who don’t need them, and self-esteem plays a big part in that. Upon further investigation, I found how to measure self-esteem as well. Also, actions can be more effective than words

I enjoy psychology, and I remembered the professor mentioning something about this.

First article I found on it: http://ellenbard.com/why-affirmations-dont-work/

This article didn’t provide much more than one person’s opinion on a study. It verified that I’m not the only one arguing this point, and that it’s an arguable position. There’s a common fad that’s been going since the 1950’s where someone will stand up on TV and tell you to repeat random bs to yourself about feeling better and that it will work. In reality, it doesn’t do much at all except make you feel worse.

The study reviewed: https://www.uni-muenster.de/imperia/md/content/psyifp/aeechterhoff/sommersemester2012/schluesselstudiendersozialpsychologiejens/03_wood_etal_selfstatements_psychscience2009.pdf

The abstract to the research article is shown in a non-biased fashion as “Positive self-statements are widely believed to boost mood and self-esteem, yet their effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated.” They argue that people who try to repeat something that they don’t accept actually end up causing more harm than good, as they reject it. Someone who views themselves as stupid and tries to say “I’m smart” might end up making themselves feel more stupid. They further conclude that if praise someone receives is outside their level of how they feel about themselves, it has the inverse effect as well. This means that someone who already feels good about themselves will be more apt to accept praise than someone who actually needs to feel good about themselves.

The first study done generally just showed that people with higher self-esteem used positive self-statements more often than people with lower self-esteem.

There was a second study done afterwards that verified their hypothesis that people with lower self-esteem would not benefit from positive self-statements. In fact, the study showed that the only people to benefit from the positive self-statements were people who already had a high self-esteem. People with low self-esteem suffered lower scores than their original scores as well.

The third study, they tested to see if having less pressure to think of positively would help those with low self-esteem. The results showed slightly less better results for those with low self-esteem than in study 2.

The overall conclusion is that small improvements in mood can be attained for people with low self-esteem by repeating things that are positive within the person’s realm of acceptance, rather than repeating crazy positive things that the person would not believe if someone else told them it.

An article that centers on various studies done: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jun/30/self-help-positive-thinking

The article starts by showing an example of how positive visualization/speaking positively can actually hinder you rather than help you. A study from the University of California shows that students who visualized themselves getting a higher grade were less likely to study, and actually received lower scores than their counterparts who didn’t. The same went for recent graduates from New York University. The ones that fantasized about getting the job they wanted more frequently ended up receiving few job offers, and thus lower salaries.

The article goes on to reference a widely known behaviorist/psychologist from the 19th century, William James. He posed the idea that behavior and emotion affect each other, rather than just emotion affecting behavior. In other words, smiling can make you feel happy, and frowning can make you feel angry. He didn’t pursue the idea much further, and it would be several decades until someone else picked up the idea.

In the 70s, a psychologist from Clark University, James Laird, tested James’s theory. Participants were asked to use different facial expressions. The results were stunning, as James’s predictions were correct. People actually felt happier or angrier depending on the facial expression they adopted. Further research found that the same can apply to our daily lives, and by acting like a more confident or just different person, you can become that person.

The article goes on to explain a case where people were able to achieve higher amounts of willpower simply by tensing a muscle. Another case cited shows that a confident pose at a desk can make people feel more confident, and another case showed that men who acted twenty years younger in a setting from twenty years prior for a week made them feel and act younger.

This article overall shows that positive behavior can help you become a more positive person. It’s not in the thinking, it’s in the actions.

Side note: The article ends with ten exercises that can be used to test the theory.

The article I had here that was really good has been taken down by PsychologyToday. 

The last source I found: http://www.sonima.com/meditation/mantras/

This source is in support of self-help mantras. The article opens with the personal tale of the author herself. Whenever she is sad or wakes up in a bad mood, she just listens to some positive mantras, and she feels better. She cites that some studies have showed that chanting mantras can help reduce stress levels, and that the tongue tapping actually changes the way your whole body feels.

She cites a psychologist from Beverly Hills, Vanessa Pawlowski, as a proponent of mantra chanting. She says, “There’s a lot of negative self-talk, people getting stuck in judgment and playing the same thing over and over again. So I have them use mantras as a way of interrupting those negative experiences and instead give them something positive to focus on.” The rest of the article centers on the stories of nine different women and how mantras have helped them.

The first woman used mantras to help her build self-confidence. The second woman uses them to help her not feel like a failure when she couldn’t achieve her lofty goal of running 100 miles. The third woman uses them to help her endure tough times. The fourth woman used them to help her realize she was ready for love. The fifth woman uses them to remember that she doesn’t always need to have the right answer and to be happy. The sixth woman uses mantras with her patients to help them get over body-image issues, or to help them recover from eating disorders. The seventh woman uses mantras to help her build different character traits within herself. The eighth woman uses them to help her start her day. The last woman uses mantras to help her relax when she feels like she hasn’t done enough during her day.

This article represents the positive effects that self-help mantras can have. It helps to diversify my pool of thoughts, and it is set from more of a feeling and emotional perspective. This helps to contrast from some of my other articles that are mores science based.

I’m feeling pretty good with the progress I’ve made. I managed to change my topic entirely and find all five sources in just four days so I think this project will be manageable. My opinion is roughly the same, but now I know more about the subject than just my hypothesis and thesis statement. I anticipate my overall outcome to shift from just self-help mantras being counterintuitive, to the whole idea of mantras and and chanting being counterintuitive.


The meaning of the most popular mantras: http://www.sunnyray.org/The-meaning-of-the-most-popular-mantras.htm

Before being able to thoroughly criticize mantras, we need to know what they mean- especially the popular ones. The first part of his page talks about what mantras are, the steps to using them, and explaining what the rest of the page is.

The first mantra they go over is the one that everyone knows. Om, or “aum” as they clarify, is described as “the three qualitatively different levels of consciousness: A – waking, U – dreaming and M – deep sleep.”

The next one is “Om Namah Shivaya.” It contains elements of the previous mantra, but has two other parts added on. “Namah” stands for adoration or respect, and “Shivaya” stands for God. This chant is for bringing peace to the user.

“Om Mani Padme Hum” is the next mantra on the page. This is one is used for transformation of an impure body into the pure qualities of the Buddha. A gem more specifically.

It doesn’t go into as much detail for the last three on the page. “Om Asato Ma Sadgamaya” stands for “Lead me from the unreal to the Real,” so it can be assumed that this is for trying to find an answer or truth in something uncertain or false. After that is “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.” This one is sixteen words long and is three different words for God.  “I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank You” is the most popular among the newest members of the chanting community, is taken from Hawaiian tradition. This one is used for taking responsibility for our actions, or as the page says, “We take absolute responsibility for our life, because our external reality is but a reflection of our inner reality. So we should always ask for forgiveness, be thankful and love the people around us.”

With this better understanding of popular mantras, I should be able to better understand the uses behind mantras and their usage in in improving one’s self-image and self-esteem.

Most common measurement of Self-Esteem: http://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/Self_Measures_for_Self-Esteem_ROSENBERG_SELF-ESTEEM.pdf

Not much to say about this. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale is the quiz used to measure self-esteem, and it was made in 1965. It features 10 questions, and features a point scale out 40. A higher score means higher self-esteem.

Assessing Self-Esteem: http://sites.dartmouth.edu/thlab/files/2010/10/TFH03.Hea_.Self-regulation.pdf

This PDF opens by explaining what society believes about self-esteem, and the foolish steps taken by schools in an attempt to try and boost it in students in schools. It further defines self-esteem as “Self-esteem is the evaluative aspect of the self-concept that corresponds to an overall view of the self as worthy or unworthy.”

An important distinction the PDF makes is the difference between self-concept and self-esteem. Self-concept is “the totality of cognitive beliefs that people have about themselves; it is everything that is known about the self, and includes things such as name, race, likes, dislikes, beliefs, values, and appearance descriptions, such as height and weigh.” Self-esteem is “the emotional response that people experience as they contemplate and evaluate different things about themselves.”

The writers of the article point at cases of low self-esteem being brought on “when key figures reject, ignore, demean, or devalue the person.” That’s not to say that just because you tell your kid off or don’t pay attention to them 24/7 they’re not gonna have good self-esteem. That just means that you shouldn’t insult your child everyday and you should talk to them at least a few times a day to make sure they’re alright. Connections can be made between cases of low self-esteem and social anxiety as well. As taboo as it is in 2018, there are gender differences in what helps boost self-esteem in males and females. Females tend to gain self-esteem through positive relationships while males gain self-esteem through objective successes. An interesting observation made from one of the studies is that men gain self-esteem through getting ahead, while women gain self-esteem through getting along.

Another taboo bit of information found is that White women are more likely than Black women to think they are obese despite the fact that Black women are about two times as likely White women to actually be obese. White women are also more likely to view large Black body shapes positively than large white body shapes positively. This article goes into a bunch of other subsections that will be useful for writing the overall paper, but too much to summarize. These subsections are: Dimensionality of Self-Esteem, Stability of Self-Esteem, Revised Janis–Field Feelings of Inadequacy, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, State Self-Esteem Scale, Alternative Conceptualizations: Implicit Self-Esteem, and Future Developments. It also presents the reader samples of the Revised Janis and Field Scales tests, the Rosenberg Scale, and the Current Thoughts test.

A site on ways to boost Self-Esteem: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-esteem/#.WoiKJ6jwY2w

The page starts by citing the ways people with low self-esteem may feel. “How to improve your self-esteem” is the first subsection of the page, and it features links to more pages on how to help you avoid situations that may damage your self-esteem, and ways to improve the self-esteem you already have. It also makes the distinction that while people with depression and anxiety may have low self-esteem, the two aren’t cause and effect, but rather things that may come with one another.

The next section is titled “Think about what is affecting your self-esteem.” It cites common and uncommon reasons, and it even includes a small video where someone talks about their feelings and their low self-esteem. A good portion of the page is then dedicated to ways to combat low self-esteem. At the bottom, it has a link to more stories of people who overcame their low self-esteem.

The main reason this page is important is that at no point did it mention taking up chanting or having a mantra. All of these sites say that low self-esteem can be cured quickly through the use of chanting, but this very official page that has several methods that makes sense and are no doubt tested and it does not mention chanting.

An Article about why having “self-esteem” might be overrated: https://www.fastcompany.com/40531879/positive-self-esteem-is-overrated-heres-what-you-need-instead

This article by Melissa Dahl titled “Positive Self-Esteem is Overrated, Here’s What you Need Instead,” explores the idea that having a high self-esteem may not be all there is to getting through your short comings. The first section talks about a study done in 2007 where the researchers had people come in, sit down in front of a camera, and tell a made-up fairy tale/story as it recorded them. The one rule being that it had to start with “Once upon a time, there was a little bear…” After they told the story, the researchers then played either the person’s own recording or someone else’s back to them, and they were asked to evaluate the story. People that didn’t have as much self-clarity hated their own recording more than people who had more self-clarity. Self-clarity is defined as “how well we know our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as our ability to accept them.” This distinction between self-clarity and self-esteem is important as it explains why some people don’t like the way they look on camera, and why some experiences we have are more embarrassing to different people.

The next section is titled “Hacking your way to Self-Clarity.” People with low self-clarity were more critical of their their stories and the way the looked on the recording. They rated their overall performances much lower than others did. People with high self-clarity were less critical of themselves, didn’t have as much trouble watching themselves, and they rated their performances average with other people. The next paragraph makes the distinction that high self-esteem inflates your ego, which can make how others see you hard to understand. Self-clarity, on the other hand, lets you see yourself better, your flaws included. The article then gives a call to action. It asks the reader to think about an embarrassing high school story moment, and then to break it down. After getting the memory into your head, it has the reader ask three questions of the memory, “How many times have other people experienced the same thing or something similar? If a friend came to you and told you about this memory, how would you respond to them? Can you try thinking about the moment from someone else’s point of view?”

The final section is titled “Seeing yourself, and seeing beyond yourself.” This section is mostly telling you why self-clarity is important. It says, “Here’s what doesn’t work: Convincing yourself it was someone else’s fault. Distracting yourself by focusing on your positive characteristics. Telling yourself that the memory ‘does not really indicate anything about the kind of person I am.’ ” It stresses the importance of accepting that everyone has done something dumb or embarrassing things in their life. You’re better off owning it than seeing that incident as just you being the only person who’s ever messed up.

(Side note: the article was adapted from a book written by Melissa Dahl, who is also the writer of the article)

This article is a breakthrough for me on how to the possible reasons for mantras being bs: http://www.saspetherick.com/the-stuck-record-why-mantras-feel-like-bullshit/


An Article about the effects of sound on your body: https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/10/02/your-brain-on-om-the-science-of-mantra

This article by Gabriel Axel titled, “Your Brain on Om: The Science of Mantra” starts with him being skeptical of mantras himself. He later did research himself, and found that our brain links certain sounds to certain emotions like tire screeches and crash sounds to accidents and fear. He says, ” This evocation is qualitative and subjective and is linked with interoception (inner body sensations) and emotional sense of self, both predominantly represented in the right hemisphere of the brain. Conversely, the narrative strand of sounds in which we give them meaning is done predominantly through the left hemisphere.” The sound resonates in different parts of our brains and bodies having different effects on us. The next section of the article breaks down the word “Aum” by letter, the way each letter should sound, and how it should make you feel.

The condition of the person both physically and mentally, will have an effect on how it effects them. He goes through the proper way to begin using mantras, and even includes scientific evidence about how repeating things in your head can be just as effective as saying them allowed. At then end of the article, Axel stresses that mantras can be used to bring out our inner energy and bring more of spirit into our everyday lives.

An article on the scientific aspects of Mantras: https://buddhaweekly.com/science-mantras-mantras-work-without-faith-research-supports-effectiveness-sanskrit-mantra-healing-even-environmental-transformation/

The first part of this article is just an introduction or forward as to some uses for mantras (mothers playing music to unborn babies, etc.). The first section titled “Some Buddhist Teachers Recommend Mantra Even Where There’s No Faith,” talks about the possible benefits of chanting around ill pets and the elderly. Nothing incredible will happen, but the words will provide some support through minor transformations.

The article sights in a drastic way,  but the next section, titled “Medical Treatment: Nurses and Doctors Recommend Mantra for Some Conditions,” says that mantras can be used to help people with PTSD and other stress related disorders. The article claims people experienced “lowered levels of tension; slower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, lower oxygen consumption, and increased alpha wave production,” and so, “The benefits experienced in 20 minutes of meditation exceed those of deep sleep, thus indicating the regenerative power of meditation and saving of wear and tear on the body.”


What I’m Looking For

I’m still looking for the specific way in which mantras or chanting would help raise ones self-esteem or make one feel more happy. A lot of what I find is opinion based and is more of a blog post by a wine-mom than an actual post by someone who knows what’s going on.

How It’s Going

My entire thesis and hypothesis have flipped. People are pretty polarized on the topic, but from people that I’ve talked to, my initial position was the popular opinion. I’m now doing research on the inverse of my original research. This class is very difficult, and at this point I’m just trying to pull out of this course with a passing grade.

6 thoughts on “White Paper third draft—UgandanKnuckles”

  1. I’m very impressed with the amount of language you’ve generated about your sources, UKM. For a project like the White Paper, turning your reading into words of your own is precisely the purpose, and you’ve embraced it. I appreciated your remarks about your first source enough to track it down myself and give it a look, and what I found will probably resonate with your own thinking if I understand the attitude you’re expressing here.

    The researchers may have gone into their project with open minds, but they’ve certainly embraced VERY skeptical findings. To cynics—or realists—the very idea that we can hypnotize ourselves into self-affirmation sounds not just foolish but almost diabolical. Did the researchers craft their study to demonstrate negative outcomes?

    Their explanation of methodology is intriguing but not convincing.

    We used two disguised measures of mood. The first was Mayer and Hanson’s (1995) Association and Reasoning Scale (ARS), which includes questions such as, ‘‘What is the probability that a 30-year-old will be involved in a happy, loving romance?’’ Judgments tend to be congruent with mood, so optimistic answers suggest happy moods. Our second mood measure was a shortened version of Clark’s (1983) ‘‘incentive ratings’’; participants rated their desire to engage in pleasant activities (e.g., go to a party; a 5 .84). Sad people experience a loss of incentive (e.g., Wood, Saltzberg, & Goldsamt, 1990).

    Are the “affirmational” mantras supposed to improve a person’s perception of self? Or are they supposed to momentarily shift a person’s mood? For my money, the naked assertion that “Judgments tend to be congruent with mood” doesn’t begin to satisfy. And even if we accept it, what does it entitle us to conclude about the subject? That because she was compelled to say she loved herself 16 times she was more likely IMMEDIATELY AFTER to feel it’s always sunny in Philadelphia?

    I ask these questions because I think you are probably asking these questions too. Or, if you’re not, that putting them in front of you will help you see how obvious they are.

    I’m not merely trying the undermine the validity of the studies you’re reading. I’m trying to undermine the notion that we have figured out how to study the phenomena your subject embraces. Your hypothesis is fine by me. But another, equally interesting hypothesis, is that no one can fully debunk the ludicrous claims made by authors all the way back to the original (Norman Vincent Peale is still listed as a source in the References section of your first source) because WE HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT HOW TO MEASURE self-esteem, so we can’t possibly measure changes to it.

    Just a thought.
    I would value your response.


    1. I agree completely! I’m sure further research into the sources used by the people who ran the test, and through research in Rowan’s databases, I will be able to answer the questions that you raised and some of the questions that I have.


  2. This is looking really good, Knuckles, but I see what you mean about not finding the focus. Your new sources are wandering from the mantra topic in favor of heavy concentration on self-esteem alone. I see of course that the two were always closely related in your original. Maybe they still are. But I sense you might be losing interest in the mantra argument, which always seemed a straw man anyway. Would it really be worth your while to demonstrate that they’re nonsense? Now, if you can somehow show that they actually have positive value, THAT would be something! I have a lot of faith in your intellect, Knuckles. You’ll work out a narrow thesis you can prove. Until then, Melissa Dahl’s self-clarity premise is stunningly convincing to me. Thank you for finding it. The considerable benefit of berating bright students into digging deep into sources is that they find cool stuff for me about once a semester. This one was worth beating you up for.

    By the way, if self-clarity trumps self-esteem (You’ll have figured this out for yourself), we need to re-think who benefits from mantras: not those who highly esteem themselves but those who clearly understand themselves. They can pump themselves up with self-high-fives without embarrassment or fear of self-delusion. Emphasize the positive with a pep talk, achieve an immediate goal, and not lose sight of their whole person.

    Or so it now seems to me with the benefit of your new source.
    What do you think?


    1. I agree. I will write down ideas about what my possible new thesis and hypothesis should be, as my originals are no longer entirely relevant to the direction of my research. The concept self-clarity is very interesting to me, and I will definitely look more into it.


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