Ellen Langer

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In 2010 she opened the summit for the NeuroLeadership Institute. [1]

"Langer is a famous psychologist poised to get much more famous, but not in the ways most researchers do. She is best known for two things: her concept of mindlessness - the idea that much of what we believe to be rational thought is in fact just our brains on autopilot - and her concept of mindfulness, the idea that simply paying attention to our everyday lives can make us happier and healthier. She was Harvard’s first tenured woman professor of psychology, and her discoveries helped trigger, among other things, the burgeoning positive-psychology movement. Her 1989 book, “Mindfulness,” was an international bestseller, and she remains in high demand as a speaker everywhere from New York’s 92d Street Y to the leadership guru Tony Robbins’s Fiji resort. And now a movie about her life is in development with Jennifer Aniston signed on to star as Langer...

"In 1976, working with Judith Rodin at Yale - a psychologist who would later become president of the University of Pennsylvania - she published a landmark field study that looked at what happened when nursing home residents were given more control over their lives...

"Langer readily concedes that her ideas have changed since her early career. “When I was first studying the illusion of control, I was doing it from a very rational perspective,” she says. Now, however, she says she is suspicious of the empirical approach that lies at the heart of scientific research. One of her favorite hobbyhorses is probabilistic thinking. (“You can tell me that there’s a 20 percent chance of it raining tomorrow, but tomorrow it will either rain or it won’t rain.”)

Instead, Langer’s “psychology of possibility” focuses not on how the typical person thinks, but on the special qualities of outliers and apparent oddities, and rests on a faith in the untapped potential of the mind. Her work reaches thousands of people, and, on the largest scale, she sees progress.

“I think the culture is headed toward an evolution in consciousness,” she told me.

The psychology of possibility can take Langer to some curious places. In a blog post last summer for the Psychology Today website, she told the story of a friend who on a long-ago trip took photos of an Indian guru only to find he didn’t show up on film. The inability of many people to believe the story, Langer suggested, was due to “our mindless adherence to longstanding views.”" [1]

She was a student of Phil Zimbardo.


"“In medicine, we pretend that human biological responses are predictable, but they’re not,” says Deepak Chopra, M.D., who credits Langer with a profound influence on his thinking as a young doctor, and later as an author and lecturer on spirituality and mind-body medicine (see “The Chopra Prescriptions,” September-October 1989, page 22)." [2]


Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Boston Globe Mind Power, organizational web page, accessed June 11, 2013.
  2. harvardmagazine The Mindfulness Chronicles, organizational web page, accessed June 11, 2013.