News - May 1, 2013

Marshmallows? Don't look!

What? Understanding how willpower works. Studium General lecture by Professor Roy Baumeister of Florida State University
Where? Impluse, building 115 on campus
When? Wednesday 8 May, 20.00
Cost? Free

Nothing is impossible. If you want it enough. Hey presto! People with willpower attract admiration and respect. And to think of will power is to think of marshmallows, ever since Harvard psychologist Walter Mischel's classic experiment in 1972.
He gave children a choice: one marshmallow now or two marshmallows in a quarter of an hour. In the interim he left his victims alone in a room with that yummy, colourful, sweet-smelling marshmallow on a table under their noses. What a temptation. Years later the strong-willed children turned out to be more successful in life.
Baumeister is today's authority on the topic of willpower. Have we progressed since Mischel?  Judging by Baumeister's main tip on how to resist temptation (don't resist; avoid), not so much perhaps. Because avoidance was precisely the strategy that Mischel's successful kids adopted. To keep the marshmallow out of sight they simply turned around.