What four psychological techniques did the government use to increase Navy SEAL passing rates?

Ever since reading The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228 I’ve been interested in Navy SEAL training, particularly the psychological aspects.

In his blog at Psychology Today, Bakari Akil covers a History channel documentary The Brain and what it revealed about the four techniques the Navy used to increase passing rates in the elite SEAL program:

“With goal setting the recruits were taught to set goals in extremely short chunks. For instance, one former Navy Seal discussed how he set goals such as making it to lunch, then dinner.”

“With mental rehearsal they were taught to visualize themselves succeeding in their activities and going through the motions.”

“As far as self talk is concerned, the experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. By instructing the recruits to speak positively to themselves they could learn how to “override fears” resulting from the amygdala, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.”

“And finally, with arousal control the recruits were taught how to breathe to help mitigate the crippling emotions and fears that some of their tasks encouraged.”

How successful were these techniques?

This very simple four step process increased their passing rates from 25 percent to 33 percent, which is excellent in a rigorous program as theirs. It demonstrates that achieving success doesn’t always have to be a complex process. A few minor additions and tweaks may be all that is needed.

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