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Think of your ancestors before an exam

Spending a few minutes thinking about your ancestors before an exam or job interview can significantly boost your chances of success.

Think of your ancestors before an exam

Spending a few minutes thinking about your ancestors before an exam or job interview can significantly boost your chances of success.

The so-called ''ancestor effect'' appears to work by acting as a reminder to the brain that seemingly impossible hurdles can be overcome. Psychologists think the effect may be rooted in the fact that those who familiarise themselves with their family history appear to gain a stronger sense of identity and self-esteem, which somehow boosts intellectual performance.

To test their theory, researchers in Germany asked 80 students to spend 5 minutes thinking about their 15th century ancestors, their great-grandparents or a recent trip to the shops. Immediately afterwards, the students were asked how confident they felt about upcoming exams. The students then underwent a range of intelligence tests.

The group that remembered lost generations was more confident about their chances of success and showed a marked improvement in the tasks assigned to them than those who simply recalled a more mundane memory. In one, the ''ancestor effect'' boosted scores to 14 out of a maximum 16, compared with just ten out of 16 in the rival group.

The findings suggest that remembering the hardships of grandparents, great grandparents and even long forgotten ancestors, seems to have a direct benefit on the brain's ability to cope with demands on its intelligence. The researchers said that when we think about our ancestors, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities. The study concluded that whenever people are in a situation where performance is extraordinarily important, such as exams or job interviews, they have an easy technique to increase their success - a reminder about their ancestors that can significantly increase intellectual performance.
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