Walter Mischel

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pages: 342 words: 94,762

Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy

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algorithmic trading, Atul Gawande, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, blood diamonds, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, corporate governance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Flash crash, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, Google Earth, Hernando de Soto, High speed trading, impulse control, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Long Term Capital Management, Menlo Park, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nick Leeson, paper trading, Paul Graham, payday loans, Ralph Nader, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, six sigma, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, statistical model, Steve Jobs, The Market for Lemons, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, upwardly mobile, Walter Mischel

See the SNAP website at http://www.stopnowandplan.com. 23. The original study is Walter Mischel, Ebbe B. Ebbesen, and Antonette Raskoff Zeiss, “Cognitive and Attentional Mechanisms in Delay of Gratification,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 21(1972): 204–218. Subsequent studies include: Harriet Nerlove Mischel and Walter Mischel, “The Development of Children’s Knowledge of Self-Control Strategies,” Child Development 54(1983): 603–619; Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and Philip K. Peake, “The Nature of Adolescent Competencies Predicted by Preschool Delay of Gratification,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54(1988): 687–699; Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and Monica L. Rodriguez, “Delay of Gratification in Children,” Science 244(1989): 933–938; and Walter Mischel and Ozlem Ayduk, “Willpower in a Cognitive-Affective Processing System: The Dynamics of Delay of Gratification,” in Roy F.

Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness (Knopf, 2006), p. 3. 5. For example, research on the importance of willpower does not draw from studies that show how heart rate variability matters to our ability to regulate our emotions (a topic we will explore in Chapter 1). In 2010, Walter Mischel and his coauthors suggested that the Bing Nursery experiments and studies of willpower (including brain imaging) are converging on an explanation of self-control that focuses on cognitive and neural mechanisms; they do not mention heart rate variability. See Walter Mischel et al., “‘Willpower’ over the Life Span: Decomposing Self-Regulation,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access (September 19, 2010): 1–5. Likewise, Roy Baumeister’s pathbreaking research on “willpower” tends to focus more on cognition and brain function than on heart rate variability.

Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs, eds., Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications, pp. 99–129 (Guilford, 2004). 24. Yuichi Shoda, Walter Mischel, and Philip K. Peake, “Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies from Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions,” Developmental Psychology 26(6, 1990): 978–986; John Mordecai Gottman and Lynn Fainsilber Katz, “Children’s Emotional Reactions to Stressful Parent-Child Interactions: The Link Between Emotional Regulation and Vagal Tone,” in Richard A. Fabes, ed., Emotions and the Family, pp. 265–283 (Haworth Press, 2002). 25. See Walter Mischel et al., “‘Willpower’ over the Life Span: Decomposing Self-Regulation,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access (September 19, 2010): 1–5, at 2. 26.


pages: 494 words: 116,739

Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology by Kentaro Toyama

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Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, blood diamonds, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, conceptual framework, delayed gratification, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fundamental attribution error, germ theory of disease, global village, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Khan Academy, Kibera, knowledge worker, libertarian paternalism, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, microcredit, mobile money, Nicholas Carr, North Sea oil, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, randomized controlled trial, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, school vouchers, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, technoutopianism, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Upton Sinclair, Walter Mischel, War on Poverty, winner-take-all economy, World Values Survey, Y2K

He didn’t have much motivation to study (intention), didn’t seem to think it worthwhile (discernment), and, in any case, didn’t apply himself to his assignments (self-control). I don’t blame David for his poor showing in geometry, or even for his lackluster heart, mind, and will. Nor should anyone else. His birth family might have been cursed with drug abuse, alcoholism, homelessness, illiteracy, insolvency, emotional turmoil, or just garden-variety bad luck or bad judgment. You can’t blame a child for not developing good study habits under constant distress. Yet Walter Mischel’s famous “marshmallow study” showed that the capacity to delay gratification – a kind of self-control – expressed at ages four to six is among the strongest predictors of achievement and social adjustment in young adults.2 It doesn’t make much sense to hold six-year-olds accountable for their personalities – it’s obviously not up to them. But what Mischel’s research further implies is that the responsibility for an adult’s degree of self-control isn’t black or white, either.3 A person’s intrinsic growth is never wholly of his own making.

“Practical wisdom” as defined by Schwartz and Sharpe (2010) is very close to the concept of discernment that I am defining in this chapter. 15.With regard to individuals, there is a rich line of research in the psychology of self-control (explored under various names, such as executive function, self-discipline, self-regulation, delay of gratification, and willpower), as well as in its pathological absence (such as akrasia, the breakdown of will, self-defeating behavior, and, in an extreme form, addiction). Academic experts sometimes make fine distinctions between these terms, but the concepts are closely related. Among those who champion the primacy of willpower are Walter Mischel, George Ainslie, and Roy Baumeister. Mischel is best known for his “marshmallow experiment” which demonstrated that young children who were able to delay gratification by giving up an immediate reward for a larger reward later grew up to be more successful in school and life than their peers who were not. See Shoda et al. (1990) and Mischel and Shoda (1995). Baumeister and his colleagues confirm that self-control is a predictor for better health, education, and employment, and further find that greater amounts of it as a character trait appear to confer a consistent advantage in life.

May 15, 2008, www.economist.com/node/11374623. ———. (2014). Cutting down on cutting down. June 7, 2014, www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21603409-how-brazil-became-world-leader-reducing-environmental-degradation-cutting. Ehrenreich, Barbara. (2009). Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Metropolitan Books. Eigsti, Inge-Marie, Vivian Zayas, Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, Ozlem Ayduk, Mamta B. Dadlani, Matthew C. Davidson, J. Lawrence Aber, and B. J. Casey. (2006). Predicting cognitive control from preschool to late adolescence and young adulthood. Psychological Science 17(6):478–484, http://pss.sagepub.com/content/17/6/478.abstract. Ellerman, David. (2005). Helping People Help Themselves: From the World Bank to an Alternative Philosophy of Development Assistance.


pages: 330 words: 88,445

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler

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Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Clayton Christensen, data acquisition, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, fear of failure, Google Earth, haute couture, impulse control, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Lao Tzu, life extension, Maui Hawaii, pattern recognition, Ray Kurzweil, risk tolerance, rolodex, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Walter Mischel, X Prize

It doesn’t mean Laird Hamilton surfing Pipeline at age four, or Danny Way in the deep end of the pool at the Del Mar Skate Ranch by seven. In broader terms, deliberate practice is also how we train genius these days. It’s factory athletics. It’s Kumon math tutoring, Baby Einstein, Suzuki violin, et al. But it’s also the world McConkey walked away from that naked day at Vail. He turned his back on the factory, yet somehow still went on to become Superman. Finally, the trouble with marshmallows. In 1972, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel performed a fairly straightforward study in delayed gratification: he offered four-year-old children a marshmallow. Either the kids could eat it immediately or, if they waited for him to return from running a short errand, they would get two marshmallows as a reward. Most kids couldn’t wait. They ate the marshmallow the moment Mischel left the room. Yet a small percentage could resist temptation and, over time, this turned out to a big deal.

.… The horrors and sheer ugliness of the past they have experienced become a permanent filter through which they view all their current experiences.” Zimbardo went on to become one of the most well-regarded psychologists of the twentieth century, author of more than fifty books, and past president of the American Psychological Association. He taught at both Yale and Stanford and was at the latter institution when Walter Mischel performed his famed marshmallow experiment. The results caught Zimbardo’s attention, but not because he was interested in delayed gratification. Rather, because they seemed to confirm his childhood suspicions about time. Zimbardo noticed two competing “time perspectives” at work in Mischel’s experiment. A time perspective is the technical name for the “permanent filter” Zimbardo described.

As Bloom later told reporters: Ibid. 80 “A lot of us were from broken homes”: John Roos, “Skateboarding, Punk Inspire a Hunn’s Salvation,” LA Times, December 5, 2000. Anders Ericsson performed: Ericsson et al., Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, and Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown, 2008), pp. 35–68. “They work much, much harder”: Gladwell, Outliers, p. 39. 81 Walter Mischel performed: Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd, The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life (Free Press, 2008), pp. 216–20. 82 Outside magazine profile of Shane McConkey: Tim Sohn, “The Life and Death of Shane McConkey,” Outside, June 2009. “From this experience”: This entire section is based on Zimbardo and Boyd’s The Time Paradox. 84 UCLA psychologist Steven Berglas: Steven Berglas, Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout (Random House, 2001). 85 Psychologists describe flow as “autotelic”: Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity, p. 113.


pages: 327 words: 88,121

The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community by Marc J. Dunkelman

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, big-box store, blue-collar work, Bretton Woods, Broken windows theory, call centre, clean water, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, David Brooks, delayed gratification, double helix, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Filter Bubble, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Gini coefficient, glass ceiling, global supply chain, global village, helicopter parent, if you build it, they will come, impulse control, income inequality, invention of movable type, Jane Jacobs, Khyber Pass, Louis Pasteur, Marshall McLuhan, Martin Wolf, McMansion, Nate Silver, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Occupy movement, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, Richard Florida, rolodex, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the medium is the message, Thomas L Friedman, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, urban decay, urban planning, Walter Mischel, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, World Values Survey

Is there a way to mold our social character that would compel us to reach beyond our comfort zones? Fortunately—at least for those who believe that good things happen when people with disparate worldviews get to know one another—the answer to that question is yes. Beyond the sorts of institutional reforms suggested in the last chapter, there’s a strategy available that might well induce future generations to rebuild the bridges that have disappeared. During the 1960s, Walter Mischel, a psychology professor then on the faculty at Stanford, conceived of a revolutionary experiment designed to measure an individual’s capacity for self-control.1 Conducting what is now known as the “marshmallow test,” he placed a four-year-old and a researcher in a room with an edible treat set on a plate between them. At the outset, the researcher would explain that she needed to run an errand, but would return soon.

One study that disaggregated thirty-two separate personality variables—self-esteem and energy level among them—determined that, in the end, self-discipline was the most accurate in predicting college GPA.12 Others argued that self-discipline is twice as powerful as IQ in predicting an eighth-grade student’s grades.13 As explained by Paul Tough, the New York Times Magazine and New Yorker writer who has become a beacon for this whole field of research, the factor that now appears to be the most powerful determinant of an individual’s success is his or her ability to control impulses, stay focused, avoid distractions, manage emotions, and control thoughts. “Psychologists call them personality traits, [but] the rest of us sometimes think of them as character.”14 Inspired broadly by Walter Mischel’s earlier work on the marshmallow test and keyed generally to the concern that contemporary American education fails students too frequently, a field of research has more recently emerged to explore the causes and effects of self-control. Frequently tied to the mission many educators have to break the cycle of urban poverty, a small coterie of scholars has tried to answer the question whether impulse control might explain why certain individuals are able to escape the traps of dysfunction while others are not.

Metro West Daily News, October 24, 2011. 19Peter Orszag, “Pension Funding Scare Won’t Frighten All States,” Bloomberg View, October 23, 2012. 20Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff, “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It,” New York Times, February 12, 2012. 21Glenn Kessler, “Sarah Palin, ‘Death Panels’ and ‘Obamacare,’ ” Washington Post, June 27, 2012. 22Christine Montross, “The Woman Who Ate Cutlery,” New York Times, August 3, 2013. Chapter 15: The Marshmallow Test 1Paul Tough, How Children Succeed (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), 62. 2Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and Philip K. Peake, “The Nature of Adolescent Competencies Predicted by Preschool Delay of Gratification,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54, no. 4 (1988): 688–89. 3Yuichi Shoda, Water Mischel, and Philip K. Peake, “Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies From Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions,” Developmental Psychology 26, no. 6 (1990): 978–79. 4Mischel, Shoda, and Peake, “The Nature of Adolescent Competencies Predicted by Preschool Delay of Gratification,” 691. 5Sarah Zielinski, “Marshmallows and a Successful Life,” Smithsonian.com, August 11, 2009, http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2009/08/marshmallows-and-a-successful-life/. 6Mischel, Shoda, and Peake, “The Nature of Adolescent Competencies Predicted by Preschool Delay of Gratification,” 692. 7Joachim de Posada, TED Talk, February 2009. 8Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (New York: Bantam Books, 2006). 9Terrie E.


pages: 487 words: 151,810

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks

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Albert Einstein, asset allocation, Atul Gawande, Bernie Madoff, business process, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, clean water, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, disintermediation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, fear of failure, financial deregulation, financial independence, Flynn Effect, George Akerlof, Henri Poincaré, hiring and firing, impulse control, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, labor-force participation, loss aversion, medical residency, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Monroe Doctrine, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, school vouchers, six sigma, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, Walter Mischel, young professional

Other researchers disagree that self-control trumps IQ, but there is no question self-control is one of the essential ingredients of a fulfilling life. “It feels like it wasn’t even me,” Erica told her mother during one of their conversations about the event. “It was like it was some strange angry person who had hijacked my body. I don’t understand where this person came from or what she was thinking. I’m afraid she’s going to come back again and do something terrible.” The Famous Marshmallow Around 1970 Walter Mischel, then at Stanford and now at Columbia, launched one of the most famous and delightful experiments in modern psychology. He sat a series of four-year-olds in a room and put a marshmallow on the table. He told them they could eat the marshmallow right away, but that he was going to go away and if they waited until he returned he would give them two marshmallows. In the videos of the experiment you can see Mischel leave the room, and then the children squirming, kicking, hiding their eyes, and banging their heads on the table, trying not to eat the marshmallow on the table in front of them.

I have tried to direct readers to sources where they can read about the original work and draw their own conclusions about its implications. I have also incurred debts to many people who helped me with substance and style. Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California policed the book for scientific errors. His wife, Sarah Graham, provided a sensitive literary reading. The psychologist Mindy Greenstein, author of The House on Crash Corner, read most of the manuscript, and Walter Mischel of Columbia read a part. Both offered crucial suggestions. Cheryl Miller, formerly of The New York Times and now of the American Enterprise Institute, did a superlative job of research, copyediting, and fact checking. Her intelligence and competence are legendary among those who have been fortunate enough to work with her. My parents, Lois and Michael Brooks, read the book, offering large thoughts and careful editing suggestions.

Seligman, “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents,” Psychological Science 16, no. 12 (2005): 939–44, http://www.citeulike.org/user/kericson/article/408060. 8 The marshmallow test turned Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2009), 112. 9 The kids who possessed Jonah Lehrer, “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control,” The New Yorker, May 18, 2009, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer?currentPage=all. 10 These children could wait Walter Mischel and Ozlem Ayduk, “Willpower in a Cognitive-Affective Processing System: The Dynamics of Delay of Gratification,” in Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications, eds. Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs (New York: Guilford Press, 2004), 113. 11 a 2001 survey Douglas Kirby, “Understanding What Works and What Doesn’t in Reducing Adolescent Sexual Risk-Taking,” Family Planning Perspectives 33, no. 6 (November/December 2001): http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3327601.html. 12 It’s very hard to build Clive Thompson, “Are Your Friends Making You Fat?”


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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

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8-hour work day, Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, call centre, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, game design, hive mind, index card, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Mahatma Gandhi, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, popular electronics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rosa Parks, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, telemarketer, The Wisdom of Crowds, traveling salesman, Walter Mischel, web application, white flight

CHAPTER 9: WHEN SHOULD YOU ACT MORE EXTROVERTED THAN YOU REALLY ARE? 1. Meet Professor Brian Little: The stories about Brian Little throughout this chapter come from numerous telephone and e-mail interviews with the author between 2006 and 2010. 2. Hippocrates, Milton, Schopenhauer, Jung: Please see A Note on the Words Introvert and Extrovert for more on this point. 3. Walter Mischel: For an overview of the person-situation debate, see, for example, David C. Funder, The Personality Puzzle (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), 118–44. See also Walter Mischel and Yuichi Shoda, “Reconciling Processing Dynamics and Personality Dispositions,” Annual Review of Psychology 49 (1998): 229–58. In further support of the premise that there truly is such a thing as a fixed personality: We know now that people who score as introverts on personality tests tend to have different physiologies and probably inherit some different genes from those who measure as extroverts.

On the other side of the debate are a group of psychologists known as the Situationists. Situationism posits that our generalizations about people, including the words we use to describe one another—shy, aggressive, conscientious, agreeable—are misleading. There is no core self; there are only the various selves of Situations X, Y, and Z. The Situationist view rose to prominence in 1968 when the psychologist Walter Mischel published Personality and Assessment, challenging the idea of fixed personality traits. Mischel argued that situational factors predict the behavior of people like Brian Little much better than supposed personality traits. For the next few decades, Situationism prevailed. The postmodern view of self that emerged around this time, influenced by theorists like Erving Goffman, author of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, suggested that social life is performance and social masks are our true selves.


pages: 500 words: 145,005

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaler

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Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrei Shleifer, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Atul Gawande, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Black-Scholes formula, capital asset pricing model, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, choice architecture, clean water, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, constrained optimization, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edward Glaeser, endowment effect, equity premium, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, George Akerlof, hindsight bias, Home mortgage interest deduction, impulse control, index fund, invisible hand, Jean Tirole, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, late fees, law of one price, libertarian paternalism, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, market clearing, Mason jar, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, More Guns, Less Crime, mortgage debt, Nash equilibrium, Nate Silver, New Journalism, nudge unit, payday loans, Ponzi scheme, presumed consent, pre–internet, principal–agent problem, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, Steve Jobs, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Walter Mischel

By the time I was thinking about self-control problems in 1978, Strotz’s paper was already more than twenty years old, and there was no one else in economics who seemed interested (though Tom Schelling would soon chime in). I turned to psychology for inspiration. Surely, I thought, there would be a vast literature in psychology on delay of gratification. Dead wrong. Although many psychologists are now interested in self-control problems, in the late 1970s that was not the case. But I did unearth two treasures. The first was the work of Walter Mischel, which is now quite well known. Mischel, then at Stanford, was running experiments at a day care center on the school’s campus. A kid (age four or five) was asked into a room by the experimenter and given a choice between a small reward now and a larger reward a bit later. The rewards were treats such as marshmallows or Oreo cookies. The child was told that he could have one Oreo right now, or any time he wanted it, but if he could wait until the experimenter came back, he could have three Oreos.

We invited three groups of people: distinguished psychologists who were willing to endure a day spent talking to economists, some senior economists who were known to have an open mind about new approaches to doing economics, and the few hard-core folks who were engaged in doing research. Eric is a persuasive guy, and as a result of his charm and arm-twisting, the collection of psychologists who showed up at our initial meeting was truly astonishing. We had not just Amos and Danny, but also Walter Mischel, of the Oreo and marshmallow experiment fame, Leon Festinger, who formulated the idea of cognitive dissonance, and Stanley Schachter, one of the pioneers of the study of emotions. Together they were the psychology version of the dream team. Some of the friendly economists who agreed to participate were also an all-star cast: George Akerlof, William Baumol, Tom Schelling, and Richard Zeckhauser.

Based on the findings from our fairness study, we also know that in this domain, loss aversion is measured in nominal dollars, that is, without adjusting for inflation. So, if we could figure out a way that employees would not feel any cuts to their paychecks, there would be less resistance to saving more. The third behavioral insight was related to self-control. A key finding from the research on this topic is that we have more self-control when it comes to the future than the present. Even the kids in Walter Mischel’s marshmallow experiments would have no trouble if today they were given the choice between one marshmallow at 2 p.m. tomorrow or three marshmallows at 2:15 p.m. tomorrow. Yet, we know that if we give them that same choice tomorrow at 2 p.m., few would be able to wait until 2:15. They are present-biased. The proposal I eventually presented at the Fidelity conference was called “Save More Tomorrow.”


pages: 654 words: 191,864

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, availability heuristic, Black Swan, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, choice architecture, cognitive bias, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, demand response, endowment effect, experimental economics, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, feminist movement, framing effect, hindsight bias, index card, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, libertarian paternalism, loss aversion, medical residency, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, nudge unit, pattern recognition, pre–internet, price anchoring, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, The Chicago School, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, union organizing, Walter Mischel, Yom Kippur War

Stanovich, Rationality and the Reflective Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). cruel dilemma: Walter Mischel and Ebbe B. Ebbesen, “Attention in Delay of Gratification,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 16 (1970): 329–37. “There were no toys…distress”: Inge-Marie Eigsti et al., “Predicting Cognitive Control from Preschool to Late Adolescence and Young Adulthood,” Psychological Science 17 (2006): 478–84. higher scores on tests of intelligence: Mischel and Ebbesen, “Attention in Delay of Gratification.” Walter Mischel, “Processes in Delay of Gratification,” in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 7, ed. Leonard Berkowitz (San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1974), 249–92. Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and Monica L. Rodriguez, “Delay of Gratification in Children,” Science 244 (1989): 933–38.

Intelligence, Control, Rationality Researchers have applied diverse methods to examine the connection between thinking and self-control. Some have addressed it by asking the correlation question: If people were ranked by their self-control and by their cognitive aptitude, would individuals have similar positions in the two rankings? In one of the most famous experiments in the history of psychology, Walter Mischel and his students exposed four-year-old children to a cruel dilemma. They were given a choice between a small reward (one Oreo), which they could have at any time, or a larger reward (two cookies) for which they had to wait 15 minutes under difficult conditions. They were to remain alone in a room, facing a desk with two objects: a single cookie and a bell that the child could ring at any time to call in the experimenter and receiven oand recei the one cookie.


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Scarcity: The True Cost of Not Having Enough by Sendhil Mullainathan

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American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Andrei Shleifer, Cass Sunstein, clean water, computer vision, delayed gratification, double entry bookkeeping, Exxon Valdez, fault tolerance, happiness index / gross national happiness, impulse control, indoor plumbing, inventory management, knowledge worker, late fees, linear programming, mental accounting, microcredit, p-value, payday loans, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Richard Thaler, Saturday Night Live, Walter Mischel, Yogi Berra

Just like the processor that is slowed down by too many applications, the poor here appear worse because some of their bandwidth is being used elsewhere. EXECUTIVE CONTROL The second component of bandwidth is executive control. As discussed above, executive control is multifaceted, so we begin by considering one of the many important functions to which it contributes, namely, self-control. In the late 1960s Walter Mischel and his colleagues performed one of the most interesting (at the very least, the cutest) psychology experiments on impulsivity. Mischel’s research staff would seat a four- or five-year-old in a room and put a marshmallow in front of him. Some children would stare entranced at it, some would fidget with excitement; all of them wanted it. And the child could have it. But, before he could eat it, he was told there was a catch.

In general, a large body of research has shown the detrimental effects of lack of sleep on a variety of cognitive processes, from attention and memory to planning and decision making. A compendium of the latest research is in Gerard A. Kerkhof and Hans Van Dongen, Human Sleep and Cognition: Basic Research 185 (Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 2010). about five IQ points: “What Is a Genius IQ Score?” About.com Psychology, retrieved October 23, 2012, from http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologicaltesting/f/genius-iq-score.htm. Walter Mischel and his colleagues: W. Mischel, E. B. Ebbesen, and A. Raskoff Zeiss, “Cognitive and Attentional Mechanisms in Delay of Gratification,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 21, no. 2 (1972): 204. In follow-up studies years later, Mischel and colleagues found a remarkable predictability of cognitive and social competencies in their now grown subjects, which has enriched researchers’ thinking about the role of individual versus situational determinants of behavior; W.


pages: 351 words: 100,791

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction by Matthew B. Crawford

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airport security, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, collateralized debt obligation, David Brooks, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, deskilling, digital Maoism, Google Glasses, hive mind, index card, informal economy, Jaron Lanier, large denomination, new economy, new new economy, online collectivism, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Richard Thaler, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, the built environment, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Walter Mischel, winner-take-all economy

To attend to anything in a sustained way requires actively excluding all the other things that grab at our attention. It requires, if not ruthlessness toward oneself, a capacity for self-regulation. And reciprocally, the ability to control oneself in the face of some temptation is greatly enhanced by, indeed seems simply to be, the ability to direct one’s attention toward something else. In a classic psychology experiment, Walter Mischel and E. B. Ebbesen gave children the option of having one marshmallow immediately or, if they were able to wait fifteen minutes, two marshmallows.10 Left alone with the marshmallow at hand, some broke down and gobbled it immediately, others after a brief struggle. But about a third of the children succeeded in deferring gratification and getting the bigger payoff. Those who did so were those who distracted themselves from the marshmallow by playing games under the table, singing songs, or imagining the marshmallow as a cloud, for example.

Wise, Kira E. McKenzie, and Jenna M. Caggiano, “Did You See the Unicycling Clown? Inattentional Blindness While Walking and Talking on a Cell Phone,” Applied Cognitive Psychology 24, no. 5 (July 2010): 597–607. 9. Frank A. Drews, Monisha Pasupathi, and David L. Strayer, “Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 14, no. 4 (2008). 10. Walter Mischel and E. B. Ebbesen, “Attention in Delay of Gratification,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 16 (October 1970). 11. See The End of Overeating (New York: Rodale Press, 2009), by David Kessler, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 12. Arthur M. Glenberg, “What Memory Is For,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20 (1997): 10. 13. Merlin W. Donald, “Human Cognitive Evolution: What We Were, What We Are Becoming,” Social Research 60 (1993): 143–70. 14.


pages: 336 words: 113,519

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis

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Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, complexity theory, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, endowment effect, feminist movement, framing effect, hindsight bias, John von Neumann, loss aversion, medical residency, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Nate Silver, New Journalism, Richard Thaler, Saturday Night Live, statistical model, Walter Mischel, Yom Kippur War

The obvious next step for him was to go off and get his PhD and become Israel’s leading expert in personality assessment and selection processes. Harvard was home to some of the leading figures in the field, but Danny decided, without anyone’s help, that he wasn’t bright enough to go to Harvard—and didn’t bother to apply. Instead he went to Berkeley. When he returned to Hebrew University as a young assistant professor in 1961, after four years away, he was freshly inspired by personality studies being done by the psychologist Walter Mischel. In the early 1960s Mischel created these wonderfully simple tests on children that wound up revealing a lot about them. In what became known as the “marshmallow experiment,” Mischel put three-, four-, and five-year-old kids in a room alone with their favorite treat—a pretzel stick, a marshmallow—and told them that if they could last a few minutes without eating the treat they’d receive a second treat.

Danny almost found it easier to imagine himself in his opponent’s shoes than in his own. In some strange way Danny contained within himself his own opponent. He didn’t need another. Amos, to be Amos, needed opposition. Without it he had nothing to triumph over. And Amos, like his homeland, lived in a state of readiness for battle. “Amos didn’t have Danny’s feeling that we should all think together and work together,” said Walter Mischel, who had been the chair of Stanford’s Psychology Department when it hired Amos. “He thought, ‘Fuck You.’” That sentiment must have been passing through Amos’s mind in the early 1980s even more often than it usually did. The critics publishing attacks on his work with Danny were the least of it. At conferences and in conversations, Amos heard over and over from economists and decision theorists that he and Danny had exaggerated human fallibility.


pages: 455 words: 116,578

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

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Atul Gawande, Checklist Manifesto, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, delayed gratification, desegregation, game design, haute couture, impulse control, index card, meta analysis, meta-analysis, patient HM, pattern recognition, randomized controlled trial, rolodex, Rosa Parks, Silicon Valley, telemarketer, Tenerife airport disaster, Toyota Production System, transaction costs, Walter Mischel

The company added that “we’d like to note that as part of our Customer Service Vision, our partners are trusted completely and are empowered to use their best judgment. We believe that this level of trust and empowerment is unique, and that partners rise to the occasion when we treat them with respect.” 5.4 It was as if the marshmallow-ignoring kids Harriet Mischel and Walter Mischel, “The Development of Children’s Knowledge of Self-Control Strategies,” Child Development 54 (1983), 603–19; W. Mischel, Y. Shoda, and M. I. Rodriguez, “Delay of Gratification in Children,” Science 244 (1989): 933–38; Walter Mischel et al., “The Nature of Adolescent Competencies Predicted by Preschool Delay of Gratification,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54 (1988): 687–96; J. Metcalfe and W. Mischel, “A Hot/Cool-System Analysis of Delay of Gratification: Dynamics of Will Power,” Psychological Review 106 (1999): 3–19; Jonah Lehrer, “The Secret of Self Control,” The New Yorker, May 18, 2009. 5.5 Some have suggested it helps clarify In a fact-checking email, Muraven wrote: “There is research to suggest that marital problems spring from low self-control and that depletion contributes to poor outcomes when couples are discussing tense relationship issues.


pages: 523 words: 143,139

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths

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4chan, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, anthropic principle, asset allocation, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, Bill Duvall, bitcoin, Community Supported Agriculture, complexity theory, constrained optimization, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, Danny Hillis, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, diversification, double helix, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Firefox, first-price auction, Flash crash, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, global supply chain, Google Chrome, Henri Poincaré, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Jeff Bezos, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, knapsack problem, Lao Tzu, linear programming, martingale, Nash equilibrium, natural language processing, NP-complete, P = NP, packet switching, prediction markets, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Robert X Cringely, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, sorting algorithm, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, stochastic process, Thomas Malthus, traveling salesman, Turing machine, urban planning, Vickrey auction, Walter Mischel, Y Combinator

People simply didn’t have enough everyday exposure to have an intuitive feel for the range of those values, so their predictions, of course, faltered. Good predictions require good priors. This has a number of important implications. Our judgments betray our expectations, and our expectations betray our experience. What we project about the future reveals a lot—about the world we live in, and about our own past. What Our Predictions Tell Us About Ourselves When Walter Mischel ran his famous “marshmallow test” in the early 1970s, he was trying to understand how the ability to delay gratification develops with age. At a nursery school on the Stanford campus, a series of three-, four-, and five-year-olds had their willpower tested. Each child would be shown a delicious treat, such as a marshmallow, and told that the adult running the experiment was about to leave the room for a while.

The Average Rule suggests that after a painful wait, the thing to do is hang in there: the experimenter should be returning any minute now. But if you have no idea of the timescale of the disappearance—consistent with a power-law distribution—then it’s an uphill battle. The Multiplicative Rule then suggests that a protracted wait is just a small fraction of what’s to come. Decades after the original marshmallow experiments, Walter Mischel and his colleagues went back and looked at how the participants were faring in life. Astonishingly, they found that children who had waited for two treats grew into young adults who were more successful than the others, even measured by quantitative metrics like their SAT scores. If the marshmallow test is about willpower, this is a powerful testament to the impact that learning self-control can have on one’s life.


pages: 258 words: 73,109

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Bernie Madoff, Broken windows theory, cashless society, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Credit Default Swap, Donald Trump, fudge factor, new economy, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, shareholder value, Steve Jobs, Walter Mischel

Tice, “The Strength Model of Self-control,” Current Directions in Psychological Science (2007). Francesca Gino, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Nicole L. Mead, and Dan Ariely, “Unable to Resist Temptation: How Self-Control Depletion Promotes Unethical Behavior,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (2011). C. Peter Herman and Janet Polivy, “A Boundary Model for the Regulation of Eating,” Research Publications—Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease (1984). Walter Mischel and Ozlem Ayduk, “Willpower in a Cognitive-Affective Processing System: The Dynamics of Delay of Gratification,” in Handbook of Self-regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications, edited by Kathleen D. Vohs and Roy F. Baumeister (New York: Guilford, 2011). Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman, “Dieting and Binging, A Causal Analysis,” American Psychologist (1985). Chapter 5. Why Wearing Fakes Makes Us Cheat More Based on Francesca Gino, Michael I.


pages: 280 words: 75,820

Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher

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Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Build a better mousetrap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, epigenetics, Frank Gehry, fundamental attribution error, Isaac Newton, knowledge worker, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, McMansion, music of the spheres, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Walter Mischel

As a twenty-year-old psychologist in the Israeli army, Kahneman was already focused on an elegant research technique that would shape his life’s work: the art of the question. His military colleagues devised many for the elaborate personality tests they gave to soldiers, yet these extensive queries failed to meet the objective of identifying who would do well or poorly in battle. Looking to the opposite extreme, Kahneman discovered the work of the Columbia University psychologist Walter Mischel, who gained a lot of very useful information about a child’s nature with just one brilliantly conceived question: Do you want this small lollipop right now or this big one tomorrow? When asked if he had ever come up with such a simple, focused question for assessing personality, Kahneman nods: “How many kids would you like to have in your tent when you’re camping?” The answer gave some insight into a child’s sociability, he says, “but it didn’t work as wonderfully as Mischel’s.”


pages: 288 words: 73,297

The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease by Marc Lewis Phd

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delayed gratification, helicopter parent, impulse control, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Walter Mischel

In the chapter about Brian, we saw how now appeal (delay discounting) rivets attention to immediate rewards and devalues future gains. The chapter about Alice highlighted ego fatigue, the breakdown of cognitive control when people try to suppress their feelings or block their impulses for some length of time. Both of these psychological vulnerabilities are natural, both are shared with other animals, and both correspond with specific neural events. Now appeal was famously depicted by Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test: three-to-four-year-old children were told they could eat one marshmallow as soon as the examiner left the room, but if they waited a few minutes until she returned, they would have two to eat. Three-year-olds most often gobbled the first marshmallow in no time, thereby losing the opportunity for a second. Four-year-olds were better at waiting. But a look at the video records of this experiment (or its many derivatives) reveals ego fatigue as well.


pages: 416 words: 106,582

This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking by John Brockman

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23andMe, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, banking crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, biofilm, Black Swan, butterfly effect, Cass Sunstein, cloud computing, congestion charging, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, data acquisition, David Brooks, delayed gratification, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Exxon Valdez, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, hive mind, impulse control, information retrieval, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, mandelbrot fractal, market design, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Carr, open economy, place-making, placebo effect, pre–internet, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, randomized controlled trial, rent control, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, Schrödinger's Cat, security theater, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thorstein Veblen, Turing complete, Turing machine, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Catalog

Like the words in a multidimensional crossword puzzle, it has to fit together with all the other pieces already in place. The better and more elaborate the fit, the more certain the truth. Science permits no exceptions. It is inexorably revisionary, learning from its mistakes, erasing and rewriting even its most sacred texts, until the puzzle is complete. Control Your Spotlight Jonah Lehrer Contributing editor, Wired magazine; author, How We Decide In the late 1960s, the psychologist Walter Mischel began a simple experiment with four-year-old children. He invited the kids into a tiny room containing a desk and a chair and asked them to pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks. Mischel then made the four-year-olds an offer: They could either eat one treat right away or, if they were willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, they could have two treats when he returned.


pages: 295 words: 89,280

The Narcissist Next Door by Jeffrey Kluger

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Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Bernie Madoff, Columbine, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, impulse control, Jony Ive, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, theory of mind, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Walter Mischel

They are moved equally by the fact that they want the cookie they’ve got their eye on and the belief they have a right to the cookie—are owed the cookie—and woe betide the person who tries to deny it to them. And as for asking babies to police themselves—to keep their hands off the plate of snacks or their playmate’s belongings? Not a chance. The heart wants what it wants. It was in the 1960s that Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel first conducted his landmark study in impulse control that became simply and universally known as “the marshmallow test.” Working with a sample group of four-year-olds, he offered each of the kids a deal: They could have one marshmallow right away or, if they waited fifteen minutes while he stepped out to run an errand, they could have two upon his return. When he did leave the room, he left the single marshmallow on a plate in easy reach of the child.


pages: 324 words: 92,805

The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification by Paul Roberts

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2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, accounting loophole / creative accounting, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, asset allocation, business process, Cass Sunstein, centre right, choice architecture, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, crony capitalism, David Brooks, delayed gratification, double helix, factory automation, financial deregulation, financial innovation, full employment, game design, greed is good, If something cannot go on forever, it will stop, impulse control, income inequality, inflation targeting, invisible hand, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, late fees, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, low skilled workers, new economy, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, performance metric, postindustrial economy, profit maximization, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, reshoring, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Predators' Ball, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, total factor productivity, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Walter Mischel, winner-take-all economy

(See, for example, Prohibition or, more recently, former New York City mayor Bloomberg’s risible effort to ban garbage-can-size soft drinks—or, for that matter, any effort to restrict even the most absurd manifestations of the right to bear arms.) Likewise doomed, it seems, are efforts to revive a puritanical “shame culture” as a means to encourage self-restraint. (Witness the inability to kill off the politically and environmentally incorrect sport-utility vehicle.) Subtler efforts, drawing on behavioral science to help us compensate for our obsolete neural wiring, show some promise. Walter Mischel, the researcher behind the famous “marshmallow study” from the 1970s, has developed effective strategies to train impatient children to be patient—an important success, given that impatient children have a high likelihood of growing up to be impatient adults.14 There are other potentially fruitful ventures, such as what Richard Thaler (of the two-self model) and coauthor Cass Sunstein call “choice architecture.”


pages: 327 words: 97,720

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo

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Alfred Russel Wallace, biofilm, butterfly effect, Celebration, Florida, corporate governance, delayed gratification, experimental subject, impulse control, income inequality, Jane Jacobs, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, placebo effect, post-industrial society, Rodney Brooks, Ted Kaczynski, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, theory of mind, urban planning, urban renewal, Walter Mischel

Another person may watch the same event and feel threatened: This is not my town anymore…who are these people? We make meaning of such events—beautiful diversity, cheap labor, the end of the world as we know it—depending on many other factors in our lives and attitudes. And just as each of us represents the idiosyncratic within the universal, nothing says that your or my “idiosyncratic” is always going to be the same throughout our lifetime. Over the past four decades, research by the psychologist Walter Mischel has demonstrated that, contrary to the idea of genetic determinism, people do not behave according to rigidly fixed traits that manifest themselves consistently across all situations.6 It is not that there is no consistency, but that the consistency is situational and temporal. You may feel lonely every time you enter into a certain situation (the lunchroom in high school), even if, at the same period in your life, you feel socially satisfied very consistently in another context (band camp).


pages: 354 words: 91,875

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Doto Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

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banking crisis, bioinformatics, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, cognitive bias, delayed gratification, game design, impulse control, loss aversion, meta analysis, meta-analysis, phenotype, Richard Thaler, Wall-E, Walter Mischel

They cannot resist the promise of immediate gratification, like a going-out-of-business sale that slashes prices up to 90 percent just to get some quick cash. How big your discount rate is turns out to be a major determinant of your long-term health and success. The first study to look at the long-term consequences of a person’s discount rate was a classic psychology experiment best known as “The Marshmallow Test.” In the late 1960s, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel gave a bunch of four-year-olds the choice between one treat now or two treats in fifteen minutes. After explaining the choice, the experimenter left the child alone in a room with both treats and a bell. If the child could wait until the experimenter returned, he could have both treats. But if the child couldn’t wait, he could ring the bell at any time and eat one treat immediately. Most of the four-year-olds took what you and I would now recognize as the least effective strategy for delaying gratification: staring at the reward and imagining how it would taste.


pages: 1,351 words: 385,579

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

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1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, Broken windows theory, California gold rush, Cass Sunstein, citation needed, clean water, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Columbine, computer age, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, crack epidemic, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, demographic transition, desegregation, Doomsday Clock, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, experimental subject, facts on the ground, failed state, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fudge factor, full employment, ghettoisation, Gini coefficient, global village, Henri Poincaré, impulse control, income inequality, informal economy, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, loss aversion, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, open economy, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Republic of Letters, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, security theater, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, South China Sea, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, V2 rocket, Walter Mischel, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce

That jibes with a psychological theory that myopic discounting arises from a handoff between two systems inside the skull, one for rewards that are imminent, another for rewards that are far in the future or entirely hypothetical.81 As Thomas Schelling put it, “People behave sometimes as if they had two selves, one who wants clean lungs and long life and another who adores tobacco, or one who wants a lean body and another who wants dessert, or one who yearns to improve himself by reading Adam Smith on self-command . . . and another who would rather watch an old movie on television.” 82 Freud’s theory of the id and the ego, and the older idea that our lapses are the handiwork of inner demons (“The devil made me do it!”) are other expressions of the intuition that self-control is a battle of homunculi in the head. The psychologist Walter Mischel, who conducted classic studies of myopic discounting in children (the kids are given the agonizing choice between one marshmallow now and two marshmallows in fifteen minutes), proposed, with the psychologist Janet Metcalfe, that the desire for instant gratification comes from a “hot system” in the brain, whereas the patience to wait comes from a “cool system.” 83 In previous sections we have caught glimpses of what the hot and cool systems might be: the limbic system (whose major parts are exposed in figure 8–2) and the frontal lobes (seen in figure 8–3).

We may surmise that in the brains of impulsive assailants, aggressive impulses from the limbic system are stronger, and the self-control exerted by the frontal lobes is weaker. Most people, of course, are not so lacking in self-control that they ever lash out in violence. But among the nonviolent majority some people have more self-control than others. Aside from intelligence, no other trait augurs as well for a healthy and successful life.92 Walter Mischel began his studies of delay of gratification (in which he gave children the choice between one marshmallow now and two marshmallows later) in the late 1960s, and he followed the children as they grew up.93 When they were tested a decade later, the ones who had shown greater willpower in the marshmallow test had now turned into adolescents who were better adjusted, attained higher SAT scores, and stayed in school longer.

The familiar sign in the saloons in old Westerns—“Check your guns at the door”—served the same purpose, as do gun control laws and disarmament agreements today. Another tactic is to keep oneself away from trouble, such as avoiding the place where an aggrieved rival is known to hang out. Brawlers who allow themselves to be pulled apart by bystanders avail themselves of a similar tactic, with the added bonus that they have not conceded weakness or cowardice by disengaging. Other strategies of self-control are mental rather than physical. Walter Mischel showed that even four-year-olds can wait out a long interval for a double helping of marshmallows if they cover the alluring marshmallow in front of them, look away from it, distract themselves by singing, or even reframe it in their minds as a puffy white cloud rather than a sweet tasty food.119 An equivalent in the case of violence may be the cognitive reframing of an insult from a devastating blow to one’s reputation to an ineffectual gesture or a reflection on the immaturity of the insulter.


pages: 523 words: 148,929

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku

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agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, blue-collar work, British Empire, Brownian motion, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, DARPA: Urban Challenge, delayed gratification, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hydrogen economy, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, megacity, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Review, X Prize

Psychologists often compare the psychological profiles of adults to their profiles when they were children. Then one asks the question: What is the one quality that predicted their success in marriage, careers, wealth, etc.? When one compensates for socioeconomic factors, one finds that one characteristic sometimes stands out from all the others: the ability to delay gratification. According to the long-term studies of Walter Mischel of Columbia University, and many others, children who were able to refrain from immediate gratification (e.g., eating a marshmallow given to them) and held out for greater long-term rewards (getting two marshmallows instead of one) consistently scored higher on almost every measure of future success, in SATs, life, love, and career. But being able to defer gratification also refers to a higher level of awareness and consciousness.


pages: 459 words: 123,220

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

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correlation does not imply causation, deindustrialization, demographic transition, desegregation, ending welfare as we know it, epigenetics, full employment, George Akerlof, helicopter parent, impulse control, income inequality, index card, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Occupy movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, randomized controlled trial, school choice, Socratic dialogue, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the built environment, upwardly mobile, Walter Mischel, white flight, working poor

Whitehurst, “Oral Language and Code-Related Precursors to Reading: Evidence from a Longitudinal Structural Model,” Developmental Psychology 38 (November 2002): 934–47; Harold W. Stevenson and Richard S. Newman, “Long-term Prediction of Achievement and Attitudes in Mathematics and Reading,” Child Development 57 (June 1986): 646–59; Grover J. Whitehurst and Christopher J. Lonigan, “Child Development and Emergent Literacy,” Child Development 69 (June 1998): 848–72. 21. Tough, How Children Succeed; Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and Monica Larrea Rodriguez, “Delay of Gratification in Children,” Science 244 (May 26, 1989): 933–38; Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E. P. Seligman, “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents,” Psychological Science 16 (December 2005): 939–44; James J. Heckman, Jora Stixrud, and Sergio Urzua, “The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior,” Journal of Labor Economics 24 (July 2006): 411–82; Flavio Cunha and James Heckman, “The Technology of Skill Formation,” American Economic Review 97 (May 2007): 31–47. 22.


pages: 405 words: 130,840

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

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crack epidemic, delayed gratification, feminist movement, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, invisible hand, job satisfaction, Lao Tzu, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Peter Singer: altruism, placebo effect, prisoner's dilemma, Ralph Waldo Emerson, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, the scientific method, ultimatum game, Walter Mischel

T h e elephant and the rider each have their own intelligence, and when they work together well they enable the unique brilliance of human beings. But they don't always work together well. Here are three quirks of daily life that illustrate the sometimes complex relationship between the rider and the elephant. F A I L U R E S O F S E L F C O N T R O L Imagine that it is 1970 and you are a four-year-old child in an experiment being conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University. \ o u are brought into a room at your preschool where a nice man gives you toys and plays with you for a while. Then the man asks you, first, whether you like marshmallows (you do), and, then, whether you'd rather have this plate here with one marshmallow or that plate there with two marshmallows (that o n e , of course). Then the man tells you that he has to go out of the room for a little while, and if you can wait until he c o m e s back, you can have the two marshmallows.


pages: 384 words: 118,572

The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the Con and Why We Fall for It Every Time by Maria Konnikova

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attribution theory, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, endowment effect, epigenetics, hindsight bias, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, Milgram experiment, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, publish or perish, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, side project, Skype, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, tulip mania, Walter Mischel

Thank you to Josh Rothman, to the indispensable fact checkers and copy editors who have worked to make my pieces what they are, and, of course, to David Remnick, for believing in my future as a writer. I’ve been lucky to have a number of incredible mentors, but I want to thank especially Katherine Vaz, who believed in me from the moment I stepped into her writing class as a confused eighteen-year-old; Steven Pinker, who has taught me so much of what I know and has been a constant source of inspiration; and Walter Mischel, for hours of wisdom, beautiful art, and always thought-provoking conversation. And a final, most heartfelt thank-you to the people who’ve had to put up with me the longest, and somehow still decided to stick around. The friends who listened to me moan over countless meals and bottles of wine—and despite my often less-than-stellar company still offered in-person deliveries of tea when I shut myself in for weeks at a time.


pages: 624 words: 127,987

The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume by Josh Kaufman

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Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Black Swan, business process, buy low sell high, capital asset pricing model, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, discounted cash flows, double entry bookkeeping, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Gödel, Escher, Bach, high net worth, hindsight bias, index card, inventory management, iterative process, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kevin Kelly, Lao Tzu, loose coupling, loss aversion, market bubble, Network effects, Parkinson's law, Paul Buchheit, Paul Graham, place-making, premature optimization, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rent control, side project, statistical model, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, subscription business, telemarketer, the scientific method, time value of money, Toyota Production System, tulip mania, Upton Sinclair, Walter Mischel, Y Combinator, Yogi Berra

In that sense, “free will” is a bit misleading—“free won’t” is a more accurate description. Inhibiting certain decisions or responses can be beneficial, but our ability to inhibit has limitations, which we’ll discuss next. SHARE THIS CONCEPT: http://book.personalmba.com/inhibition/ Willpower Depletion If you don’t want to slip, don’t go where it’s slippery. —ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS MAXIM In the 1960s, Dr. Walter Mischel, a researcher at Columbia University, systematically tortured small children. Here’s how he did it: Dr. Mischel placed the child in a small room with a table and a chair. In the middle of the table, Dr. Mischel would place a big, fluffy marshmallow, then tell the child, “If you wait until I come back, you can have two.” Then he’d leave. Here’s what happened: some kids would gobble up the marshmallow seconds after the researcher left.


pages: 898 words: 266,274

The Irrational Bundle by Dan Ariely

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, air freight, Albert Einstein, banking crisis, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, Broken windows theory, Burning Man, business process, cashless society, Cass Sunstein, clean water, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, endowment effect, Exxon Valdez, first-price auction, Frederick Winslow Taylor, fudge factor, George Akerlof, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, happiness index / gross national happiness, Jean Tirole, job satisfaction, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, lake wobegon effect, late fees, loss aversion, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, Peter Singer: altruism, placebo effect, price anchoring, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, second-price auction, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, software as a service, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, Walter Mischel, young professional

Tice, “The Strength Model of Self-control,” Current Directions in Psychological Science (2007). Francesca Gino, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Nicole L. Mead, and Dan Ariely, “Unable to Resist Temptation: How Self-Control Depletion Promotes Unethical Behavior,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (2011). C. Peter Herman and Janet Polivy, “A Boundary Model for the Regulation of Eating,” Research Publications—Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease (1984). Walter Mischel and Ozlem Ayduk, “Willpower in a Cognitive-Affective Processing System: The Dynamics of Delay of Gratification,” in Handbook of Self-regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications, edited by Kathleen D. Vohs and Roy F. Baumeister (New York: Guilford, 2011). Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman, “Dieting and Binging, A Causal Analysis,” American Psychologist (1985). Chapter 5. Why Wearing Fakes Makes Us Cheat More Based on Francesca Gino, Michael I.