Behavioural experiments allow us to explore or test the truthfulness of a belief.
We can approach our beliefs like a scientist approaching a new discovery. You can use the following steps to help you to plan an experiment.
Step 1: Identify the belief to be tested
What is the belief that you have identified that you want to test? Write it down in a single sentence. Examples might include:
- “I can’t eat in-front of people – if I do they’ll think I’m disgusting”
- “If I make eye contact with people I’ll be attacked”
- “If I don’t check the door locks ten times before I go out I’ll leave the house unlocked”
Step 2: Rate the strength of the belief
How strongly do you believe this statement? Rate it from 0% (not at all) to 100% (completely, with all my heart).
Sometimes it can be helpful to give separate ratings for how much you believe it with you head (logically), and how much you believe it with your heart (emotionally).
Step 3: Plan an experiment that could test the belief
How might you test this belief? When scientists test a hypothesis they try to plan an experiment which could prove their hypothesis to be false.
Remember to plan what you’re going to pay attention to.
Think about how many times you might need to repeat the experiment. One result could be a fluke, and you may need to carry out the experiment a number of times to get a fair reflection of the truth.
Step 4: Identify any obstacles that could make it difficult to carry out the experiment
Is there anything that could get in the way of doing the experiment? If you need people to be around to help you, who could you ask? If it can only be done in a certain place, when can you go there? Do some problem-solving to work out any issues.
Step 5: Carry out the experiment
This is the part that will require courage. You may want to have someone with you who can encourage you, and who can remind you why you’re doing this.
Step 6: Record the result
Every good scientist records what happened.
Step 7: Re-rate how strongly you believe in the original belief now
Once you have done the experiment go back to your original belief. Read it to yourself and then re-rate how strongly you believe in it now.