So to recap from yesterday, this post discusses what happened when the same folks who studied delayed gratification in the Marshmallow Study brought back the same kids (now adults). They found that the high delayers were overall more successful, academically and otherwise. They also confirmed what they suspected: being able to delay is in the same part of the brain, and appears to involve the same processes, as supression of working memory. In other words, if you can control what you are thinking, you can control your behavior.
Is it just me, or does that sound hauntingly familiar?
Proverbs, anyone? For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7 And it isn’t like it stops with the Bible – “think and be strong/rich/thin/a porcupine” is a tenet for every self help guru I have ever even heard of (and I have heard of most of them. And bought their stinkin t-shirts.) Even my beloved Tom Venuto places huge reliance on goal setting and putting your head where you want to be.
Specifically, here’s what the next study did:
Last summer, the scientists chose fifty-five subjects, equally split between high delayers and low delayers, and sent each one a laptop computer loaded with working-memory experiments. Two of the experiments were of particular interest. The first is a straightforward exercise known as the “suppression task.” Subjects are given four random words, two printed in blue and two in red. After reading the words, they’re told to forget the blue words and remember the red words. Then the scientists provide a stream of “probe words” and ask the subjects whether the probes are the words they were asked to remember. Though the task doesn’t seem to involve delayed gratification, it tests the same basic mechanism. Interestingly, the scientists found that high delayers were significantly better at the suppression task: they were less likely to think that a word they’d been asked to forget was something they should remember.
In the second, known as the Go/No Go task, subjects are flashed a set of faces with various expressions. At first, they are told to press the space bar whenever they see a smile. This takes little effort, since smiling faces automatically trigger what’s known as “approach behavior.” After a few minutes, however, subjects are told to press the space bar when they see frowning faces. They are now being forced to act against an impulse. Results show that high delayers are more successful at not pressing the button in response to a smiling face.
Isn’t THAT interesting? And how about THIS???
While these [parts of teh brainz] have long been associated with self-control, they’re also essential for working memory and directed attention. According to the scientists, that’s not an accident. “These are powerful instincts telling us to reach for the marshmallow or press the space bar,” Jonides says. “The only way to defeat them is to avoid them, and that means paying attention to something else. We call that will power, but it’s got nothing to do with the will.”
“The only way to defeat them is to avoid them, and that means paying attention to something else. “