Psychology and Atmosphere

I was listening to National Public Radio yesterday between events and heard a report that a psychologist got a group of people together, divided them into two groups, gave each a book, and told them that for ten minutes he wanted each one to underline each word that had double letters in it (like the word “letter” with two t’s back to back).  He then had them rate how enjoyable the exercise was at the end.  He took away all watches and cell phones so they could concentrate (or so he said).

The only variable is that he lied to both groups about the time.  He said that he told group one “time’s up” after 5 minutes.  He told the second group “time’s up” after twenty minutes.  The interesting thing is the first group rated the experience as much more enjoyable because “time seemed to fly” while they did it.  The second group felt “time dragged” and so they felt it was no fun.  It’s interesting how our perceptions can color doing the exact same thing.

I think about this when I eat in many restaurants.  The food itself often isn’t the best.  But what people like is getting dressed up, the polished waiters and waitresses, and the decor of the establishment.  If served the same food in a fast food restaurant with plastic forks and paper plates, the food probably wouldn’t taste so good.

I think about this as a pastor.  What is the atmosphere that is most conducive to learning about God, to pray, and for fellowship?

And what would I consider the ideal atmosphere?

What about at home?  What about in the field with the military?

Like an astute restaurant proprietor who figures out the atmosphere to sell her/his food, what atmosphere are we being called to develop today?

Sometimes I don’t have answers, just questions.

All the best,

Tom

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