Sunday, March 1, 2009

Of Marshmallows and Life - two TED U talks

Joachim de Posada broke TED rules by getting into book-promotion mode. However, his talk was rather interesting, discussing the 'marshmallow experiment'. In the 60's, some experimenters at Stanford did a landmark study offering some four-year-olds a marshmallow. They were told they could eat the marshmallow now; alternatively, if they could wait until the experimenter returned from an errand, some 15 or 20 minutes later, they could have two marshmallows.

Approximately one third of the kids were able to delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow. Looking at these same kids years later, their SAT scores were over 200 points higher, and they were more adjusted, happier and more successful in every way. It's been concluded that this ability to delay gratification might just be the most significant predictor of life success. de Posada has written several books about the topic. He entertained us with the antics of the kids' behaviour as they touched, smelled, licked, or pushed away the marshmallows as they tried to resist.

Philip Zimbardo elaborated on this idea. He classified people into three types: those who live in the present (who ate the marshmallow immediately), those who live in the future (those who waited long enough to get the second marshmall0w) and those who live in the past. He said that, although future orientation could lead to considerable 'success', one needed to balance this with a present focus in order to attain happiness. He considers our weakness in management of time in general and our time focus as illustrating The Time Paradox in our lives.

1 comment:

Joachim said...

Lib, I am so sorry. I had no idea I couldn't talk about the book. I thought that was the reason they chose me to talk at TED.
Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Joachim de Posada