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Sport Psych

Martial Arts


Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

When You Have Been Betrayed

Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Feedback, Self-Efficacy and the Development of Motor skills

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Performance Enhancement in the Martial Arts: A Review

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?


What to Expect from Mindfulness-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) When You Have Depression and Anxiety

Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Lack Compassion? It Depends Upon the Therapist

When Needs Come Into Conflict

When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy


Riding a Horse Across the Plains

Cityscape Mindfulness

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

The Great Desert Mindfulness

Tropical Garden Mindfulness

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Probability and OCD

Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

Day of Fishing Mindfulness

Audio Version of Article: Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles


by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Clinical and Sport Psychologist


December 20, 2014

PsychNote: Can't Force Happiness on Someone

Certain methods have been shown to increase happiness in individuals. Researcher Lyobomirsky and colleagues (2011) examined whether choosing to engage in happiness-enhancing activities made a difference.

To determine this, they designed research in which students were given the option to participate in two different studies: a cognitive exercises study and a happiness intervention. Unknown to the students, however, both studies were exactly the same. When they received their directions, each group was told they were participating in a study to increase well-being and they would be provided instructions requiring 15 minutes of writing per week for 8 weeks.

The writing assignment for some was to express optimism about their future self with each week focused on a different aspect of their future: romantic life, educational attainment, hobbies/personal interests, family life, career, social life, community involvement, and health. The other writing assignment was to express gratitude by writing a letter to someone (but not sending it) to whom they were grateful.

The outcome of this research showed that those who had chosen to be in a happiness study did indeed increase their overall well-being and sense of happiness regardless of which assignment they completed. However, those who chose to be in a cognitive exercises study did not show an increase in happiness although they completed exactly the same assignment and put in the same amount of effort. In addition, no difference was found in level of happiness between the two groups at the beginning of the study so it can't be said that those who chose the cognitive exercises activity were already happier explaining why they didn't choose to be in a study about happiness.

Conclusion: A person needs to choose to increase happiness in her or his life for the effort to be effective.

Lyobomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R.,Boehm, J.K. and Sheldon, K.M. (2011). Becoming Happier Takes Both a Will and a Proper Way: An Experimental Longitudinal Intervention To Boost Well-Being. Emotion , 11, 391–402. DOI: 10.1037/a0022575

Parrots: Listen to all advice December 19, 2014

Cognitive Story Audio:
Feeling Sad Because Friends Were Mean

This is a cognitive story for children. The purpose is to help children learn how to handle different situations. A cognitive story teaches children how to think rationally about problems that commonly occur in childhood. These stories are often good at bedtime because the end of the story focuses on relaxing and drifting off to sleep.

This audio is a conversation between a wise old parrot and a child. The parrot advises the child when the child is troubled about being hurt by friends. The story the audio is based on is also listed below so that it can be read to a child.


December 10, 2014

Successful Marriages Require Emotional Control

Emotional control is not emotional suppression. A good marriage requires access to emotions because emotions tell us when a problem occurs. However, the critical factor is how those emotions are expressed. Constructive expression of emotions allows for problem-solving. Emotions expressed through negative behaviors such as yelling, withdrawal, passive-aggressive comments, or violence are destructive to a relationship.

In a 13-year study of marriages, researchers Bloch and colleagues (2014) found that the more wives were able to control their emotional reactions, the greater both partners' marital satisfaction. Interestingly (although not commented on in the study), the husband's ability to control negative emotional behavior early in the marriage predicted the wife's marital satisfaction later in the marriage.

Perhaps this research suggests that although the wife's emotional control is critical for long-term satisfaction, the husband's initial emotional control may set the tone for the marriage. In addition, this research showed that the more the couple was able to engage in constructive communication, the more satisfying the relationship.

Controlling emotions can be done in various ways. The development of a mindful attitude can help. Regular practice of the Loving-Kindness meditation can manage angry emotions. Recognizing irrational thinking when it occurs and challenging it can also assist with emotional control.

Bloch, L., Haase, C.M. And Levenson, R.W. (2014). Emotion Regulation Predicts Marital Satisfaction: More Than a Wives’ Tale. Emotion, 14, 130–144. DOI: 10.1037/a0034272

December 8, 2014

PsychNote: What You Watch Influences Your Romantic Beliefs

The way you think about relationships can enhance or harm your relationship. And the type of movies or television shows you watch affect how you think about relationships. Thus, we can conclude that what you watch can make your romantic relationship satisfying or can be destructive to the long-term success of your relationship.

Specifically, researchers Lippman and colleagues (2014) found that romantic-themed movies tend to promote the belief that “love will find a way” and that romantic-themed reality TV shows strengthen the belief in “love at first sight.” Generally, these types of romantic beliefs are associated with greater success in relationships, greater commitment to the partner, and higher self-esteem in women. On the negative side, however, those who believe in a “one and only” soul mate are more likely to stay with an abusive partner and more likely to act aggressively when rejected.

Negative associations with romanticism were found for those who watch sitcoms. This may indicate that watching sitcoms may be potentially destructive to romantic relationships.

What are you watching?

Lippman, J.R., Ward, L.M., and Seabrook, R.C. (2014). Isn’t It Romantic? Differential Associations Between Romantic Screen Media Genres and Romantic Beliefs, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 3, 128-140.

autumn December 3, 2014

New Audio Version of Relaxation Available: RAINY AUTUMN MORNING RELAXATION

This audio relaxation exercise teaches mindful awareness by describing relaxing imagery. This audio describes a walk along a country lane in the woods on a rainy, autumn morning. Just allow yourself to picture the autumn colors and listen to the rain as it drips from the leaves into the stream bordering the lane.

This type of relaxation has several purposes. It teaches you how to be mindfully aware of your full experience. By practicing the methods of mindfulness, you can develop a greater awareness and appreciation of your daily experiences. In addition, it will help you develop greater relaxation skills. You can use these methods to reduce the symptoms of stress, manage anxiety, and improve your sleep.

This may be used while sitting or lying down in a quiet, comfortable place.  Just close your eyes and listen without trying to force yourself to relax.  If your mind wanders, gently bring yourself back to focus on the words.


brain: DOI: 10.1037/a0029896 December 2, 2014

PsychNote: This Is Your Brain On Change

“I can do this!” is processed differently in the brain than “There is nothing I can do.” The first is an example of “change talk” which is talking about solutions to problems and behavior change. The second is an example of “sustain talk” which is focused on the status quo or keeping things the same.

Researchers, Houck and colleagues (2013) showed through imaging of the brain that when clients in therapy sessions talk about making changes, their speech is processed in a different part of the brain than when they engage in “sustain talk.” What this illustrates is that talking out loud about change stimulates a different area of the brain.

It reminds me of the common joke we've all seen on TV: someone needs to talk about their problem but doesn't let the therapist or friend get a word in edgewise but then thanks them for their help and insight. All they needed was to hear themselves talk about the problem and solutions so as to stimulate a different part of the brain.

The neuro-imaging research is consistent with a metaphor I have used for years with my clients when describing how cognitive therapy affects the brain at a neural level: engaging in the repetition of rational challenges (“change talk”) creates a new pathway in the brain that competes with the old irrational self-talk (“sustain talk”) and eventually replaces it. This is the development of muscle memory for the brain. When you want to learn a new physical skill (or improve an old skill), you engage in repetitive practice until your body can react automatically. Cognitive therapy is the same process for the brain. Repetition = new pathway = change.

Houck, J.M., Moyers, T.B. And Tesche, C.D. (2013). Through a Glass Darkly: Some Insights on Change Talk via Magnetoencephalography. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 27, 489–500. DOI: 10.1037/a0029896

November 29, 2014


Question: Daughter is asking for a guinea pig for Christmas and is stating if she doesn't get one she will stay in her room all day and make sure everyone else's day is bad, too. I am reluctant to get her one because I got her a hamster with all the bells and whistles for her birthday in April and she decided she no longer wanted to care for it and let it go outside 8 weeks later.

Read Response

November 26, 2014

“I Like It When You...”

The expression of gratitude improves social relationships. Period.

It also improves your perception of others. When you look for the opportunity to express gratitude, you are more likely to observe the positive qualities and value of others rather than the flaws.

However, as with any type of positive expression such as compliments, it should be specific to be effective. Too often, people believe they are expressing gratitude with a “thank you.” But a “thank you” has just become background noise because it is used so frequently.

Make an effort to be specific in expressing gratitude. For instance, if you like the service you received, say “Thank you for _______. I really appreciate the effort you made.” If you want to express specific gratitude to your partner: “I like it when you _______. I know you go out of your way for me.” At first it may seem strange or silly to make these statements. However, as you make this effort and notice the response from others, it will become more comfortable.

Lambert, N.M. and Fincham, F.D. (2011). Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior. Emotion, 11, 52– 60. DOI: 10.1037/a0021557

November 23, 2014

New Educational Audio is Available: AGING WITH INTEGRITY

old friends Growing older is often a confusing time. People tell you how lucky you are to retire and yet you might not feel so lucky. Most people feel loss with aging and need to come to terms with these changes. Also, what many people don't understand is that life doesn't stop at a certain age. Although your life may have changed, there is still the question of what you want to do with your life.

This audio addresses various issues with which people are confronted as they age: loss, change, need for sense of purpose. As you grow older, it is common to revisit the stage of identity development with questions of "What do I want?", "What is meaningful in my life?", and "What do I do now?" By focusing on the present rather than the past and addressing these issues you can approach this stage of life with integrity rather than despair.


November 22, 2014

50 Rules of Life
Rule 11: Ask All the Questions

Genius is not having all the answers, but instead, is the ability to create the questions. Once a question is conceived and thoroughly understood, answering it is fairly straight-forward. However, most of the time where we fall short is in not asking the questions.

Whether we are talking about the questions of science or the questions of everyday living, the issue is the same:

Ask All the Questions1) When you are faced with a problem, don't accept the first solution that comes to mind. Ask questions!

2) When you are stumped, don't give up. Ask questions!

3) If you don't know where to start, don't become overwhelmed. Ask questions!

4) If you are confused about someone's behavior, don't assume. Ask questions!

5) When you don't know what to say, don't sit silently. Ask questions!

6) When you have a decision to make, don't accept someone else's choice. Ask questions!

7) If you are uncertain, don't do the expected. Ask questions!

Socrates, the Greek philosopher, reminds us, “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

Ask all the questions!

November 21, 2014

PsychNote: Mindful Attention Reduces Anger for Those With Borderline Personality Disorder

A primary characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is inability to control intense emotional states such as anger. Generally, those with BPD tend to take longer than normal to return to a neutral state after an emotional experience. As a result, they remain in intense emotional distress a significant portion of time. It is believed that this distress is maintained through what is called a “ruminative” thought process which means they keep reviewing the event with an angry focus: “Why do people keep hurting me like this?” or “He doesn't really care about me,” or “She is trying to make me miserable.”

Researchers (Sauer and Baer, 2012) examined the effect of replacing this ruminative focus with mindful self-focused attention. For example: “Allow your breath to go in and out at its own pace without trying to change it,” “Notice any sensations in your body without judging them as good or bad,” “Observe any emotions that are present without trying to change or get rid of them,” and “Notice if any thoughts are in your mind and allow them to come and go on their own.”

They found that even for those with no prior mindfulness training this method reduced anger to a greater degree than rumination. This finding indicates that mindfulness training could help those with BPD gain greater emotional control.

Sauer, S.E. and Baer, R.A. (2012). Ruminative and Mindful Self-Focused Attention in Borderline Personality Disorder. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 3, 433– 441. DOI: 10.1037/a0025465

November 19, 2014

PsychNote: The Paradox of the Mindful Attitude

A paradox is something that may not make sense on the surface but reveals a truth. For example, for people with panic, when they quit trying to get rid of panic, it usually reduces or even goes away. Or, for a perfectionist, when they don't try as hard at work, they may actually do a better job. It may seem reasonable that if you want to stop panic, you have to try to get rid of it or avoid the things that might create it. Or, if you want to be a good employee, you must work harder. However, sometimes the truth is the opposite. I often tell my clients that it's as if a bottomless pit is in front of them and I'm telling them "It's okay. Nothing is really there. You can walk across it." Instead of trusting their senses, they have to proceed against what appears to be sensible.

That is the nature of the mindful attitude. The mindful attitude is about letting go and just experiencing. The paradox is that it is necessary to let go of the mindful attitude as well. What does this mean? It means that trying to create a mindful attitude is counter-productive. Sometimes I hear or read on the internet people priding themselves on how many silent retreats they have been on or how much mindful meditation in which they engage. To me, this is not the mindful attitude because they are treating mindfulness as a goal to achieve rather than just an experience of "being." I do recognize that this may be a step in that person's journey and other layers of mindfulness may be revealed to them later. Yet, I believe it is important to point out this paradox to help beginners understand the true nature of the mindful attitude.

Recognize that as you practice mindfulness you are taking steps towards developing a mindful attitude but the practice may not be mindfulness itself. To understand how to begin mindfulness practice and incorporate it into your life, the Understanding Mindfulness audios (with transcripts) can be a good starting point. The mindfulness exercises can be helpful in learning mindfulness, but keep in mind that they are not creating mindfulness but are steps towards the development of a mindful attitude.

November 17, 2014

New Cognitive Self-talk Audio is Available: THE IRRESPONSIBILITY OF DEPENDENCY

This audio may seem harsh but for those who are overly dependent, it is a necessary truth. Only by recognizing how your dependency creates what you fear will you be able to change your life. Your fear of being abandoned, of being alone, of being responsible for yourself is more likely to cause you to be rejected, abandoned, and alone. Once you realize that only you are responsible for changing this pattern, you can create a better life for yourself. No matter what happened to you in the past, you are responsible for your present.

Those who are overly dependent may present in different ways. Some present as helpless with the need to be taken care of while others may present as very controlling. No matter how the dependency may appear, it has the commonality of creating problems in relationships.

The purpose of this audio is to help you recognize this reality. By listening to it and making the choice to take responsibility for yourself, you can create a better future. Keep in mind that as with all the cognitive-behavioral tools, this should be used in combination with the other methods such as the cognitive diary method.


November 16, 2014

PsychNote: The Key to Mindful Breathing for Sleep

Frequently, people find it difficult to fall asleep because their mind won't turn off. Although some people are focused on worries, any kind of thoughts can potentially interfere with sleep. For instance, if you are excited about something that just occurred or that you are anticipating, you may have trouble quieting your mind. If you are working on a project, you may still be thinking about it when you go to bed. If you have a problem you are trying to solve, you may be reviewing it in your mind. Whatever the type of thought might be, it can interfere with easily falling asleep.

The Mindful Breathing exercise can be useful for quieting your mind. First, be sure to thoroughly learn the method before using it for sleep. You can listen to the audio to learn the method, but for sleep it is best to focus on each breath without listening to the audio. The key to using the mindful breathing method for sleep is to gently bring your focus back to your breath whenever your mind wanders. At first, you may need to do that many times. Don't get discouraged, but instead, gently refocus to your breath. As your mind quiets, your next awareness is likely to be waking up from a restful sleep.

November 3, 2014

PsychNote: Treatment Resistant Depression isn't Resistant to Cognitive Therapy

About 30% of those treated for Major Depressive Disorder with anti-depressants have been labeled with treatment resistant depression (TRD). Unfortunately, with each additional medication tried, the chances of improvement are diminished. Repeated, unsuccessful trials of different medications causes increased discouragement and hopelessness which may lead to the higher level of suicide in this group.

However, Leykin and colleagues (2007) found that those with TRD to medication still respond as well to cognitive therapy as those who have responded to only one or two trials of medication. The researchers suggest that the depression is not treatment resistant, per se, but neurochemically resistant to anti-depressants. In other words, some people may not be able to benefit from medication, however, they can still benefit from other forms of treatment such as cognitive therapy. In addition, these researchers suggest that for some people, the repeated trials of medication may alter the brain chemistry in such a way to lead to a worsening of the depression.

Labeling people as treatment resistant may not only be inaccurate but could potentially be harmful due to the degree of hopelessness that is caused by this label. If someone is not responding to repeated trials of medication, they should be informed of other available treatment options such as cognitive therapy.

Leykin, Y., Amsterdam, J.D., DeRubeis, R.J., Gallop, R., Shelton, R.C. and Hollon, S.D. (2007). Progressive Resistance to a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor but Not to Cognitive Therapy in the Treatment of Major Depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 267–276. DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.2.267

autumn November 2, 2014

New Relaxation Audio is Available: RAINY AUTUMN MORNING RELAXATION

This audio relaxation exercise teaches mindful awareness by describing relaxing imagery. This audio describes a walk along a country lane in the woods on a rainy, autumn morning. Just allow yourself to picture the autumn colors and listen to the rain as it drips from the leaves into the stream bordering the lane.

This type of relaxation has several purposes. It teaches you how to be mindfully aware of your full experience. By practicing the methods of mindfulness, you can develop a greater awareness and appreciation of your daily experiences. In addition, it will help you develop greater relaxation skills. You can use these methods to reduce the symptoms of stress, manage anxiety, and improve your sleep.

This may be used while sitting or lying down in a quiet, comfortable place.  Just close your eyes and listen without trying to force yourself to relax.  If your mind wanders, gently bring yourself back to focus on the words.


November 1, 2014

Addiction to Emotions and Mindfulness Practice

A complaint some people have about mindfulness is that it dampens their positive emotions as well as negative emotions. Although such experience with mindfulness may appear to be true, it is actually due to the individual's perspective of emotions. Some people are thrill-seekers and require external emotional rewards. For instance, gamblers are addicted to the positive emotions involved with gambling and winning: excitement, anticipation, elation (Teper and Inzlicht, 2014). However, they are also very susceptible to the negative emotions when they lose. Similarly, some people are addicted to the excitement and passion of a new relationship and are more likely to be unfaithful in a longer term relationship.

Research shows that mindfulness actually increases engagement with positive emotions which means people will fully experience positive emotions. However, mindfulness may decrease the length of an emotional reaction (Greenberg and Meiran, 2014). Most likely this is due to the length of an emotional experience being dependent upon re-creating the emotion rather than just experiencing it. Re-creating an emotion is likely to be related to the addictive need for the positive emotion.

Therefore, for those who are addicted to positive emotions, mindfulness will be experienced more negatively as it is a withdrawal from the emotional "high." The benefit, however, of mindfulness for those who are addicted to emotions is that it decreases the unhealthy behaviors to seek the "high" such as gambling, sex or pornagraphy addiction, and spending addictions.

Greenberg, J. and Meiran, N. (2014). Is mindfulness meditation associated with “feeling less?” Mindfulness, 5, 471-476. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-013-0201-2

Teper, R. and Inzlicht, M. (2014). Mindful Acceptance Dampens Neuroaffective Reactions to External and Rewarding Performance Feedback. Emotion, 14, 105-114. DOI: 10.1037/a0034296

Excellence vs Perfection Some people may be curious as to why this website is dedicated to the "pursuit of excellence" when I am constantly warning about the dangers of perfectionism.  To address this question we must differentiate between the pursuit of excellence and the need to be perfect.  These concepts are not only different but can be considered antagonistic to one another. In fact these concepts are so opposed to one another that  excellence can best be attained by giving up the demands of perfection.

What is Perfectionism?  Perfectionism is the individual's belief that he or she must be perfect to be acceptable. Perfectionism is black and white with no gray area. Anything other than perfect is failure. Perfectionism is an attitude, not necessarily a behavior. In other words, two people can engage in the same behavior such as trying to win an Olympic gold medal but one can be pursuing excellence and the other is demanding perfection. The difference lies in the thought process about the goal or behavior, not in the goal or behavior itself.  READ MORE...

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience? Listening to the weather forecast one frigid day, I realized how much we are influenced by the catastrophic thinking of the media.  The weatherman reported, "The weather has brought more misery to the St. Louis area."  Certainly, the weather was causing problems that day.  An ice storm caused car doors and locks to be frozen so that people had a great deal of trouble getting into their cars.  However, I thought, unless someone was in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone and they were unable to open their car door because of the ice, this was not "misery."  Instead, I would call it an "inconvenience."  Most of us walked out to our cars to find that we couldn't open the door, went back inside a warm house or office, and found some solution to our problem.  READ MORE...

Happiness is an Attitude For many years when my husband and I were first together I would ask him "When are things going to get better?"  We were dealing with the usual stressors that couples face: not enough time, not enough money, and the inevitable random events such as family conflict, deaths of loved ones, illnesses and injuries.  In addition, for most of our early years together I was in school and struggling with the balancing of demands of advanced education, part-time work, and a family.  But I had the belief that we were working towards this perfect life that one day would emerge shining a rainbow of happiness forever over us. My husband, inclined more toward the practical, just answered my question of "When are things going to get better?," with "Another six months."  That answer typically pacified me for awhile because I thought I could handle any amount of stress for six months.  However, a point would occur when I once again I asked my husband "When are things going to get better?"  Once again, he would answer "Another six months."  This scenario occurred fairly routinely for many years.

However, fortunately during this time I had experiences that began to teach me about my expectations of life.  In particular, when I was completing my internship at the Veterans Administration Medical Center I had the opportunity to work on the spinal cord injury unit.  That experience forever changed my thinking.  In particular, I was struck by the differences in attitude among the patients.  READ MORE...

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight"I don't have any willpower."

"I'm weak."

"I'm lazy."

"I can't do it."

Do these statements sound familiar? Too often, our self-statements about weight management interfere with our efforts and lead to failure. By changing how we think about developing a healthy weight we are able to change the behaviors that can lead to success.

Not long ago I conducted a little experiment with my cardio-kickboxing class. After an intense class I told them to get the heaviest weights they could curl 8-10 times. I spent a minute telling them to focus on feeling tired, that they had just worked out hard and they couldn't do anymore. Then, they were to curl the weights to exhaustion. Once they finished, I spent another minute telling them to focus on having energy, feeling good, feeling refreshed, and knowing they could do more. Once again, they lifted the weights to exhaustion. The results were that out of nine people, only one did fewer lifts the second time! And typically, when someone lifts weights to exhaustion they should not be able to lift as much the second time when it is only a minute later. Although this was not a controlled scientific experiment, it was a demonstration to my class to show how powerful our thinking can be. What this exercise showed was how positive thinking overcame the natural exhaustion of the body and created a self-fulfilling prophecy of lifting more weight because the participants believed that they could. READ MORE...