Our ability to exercise self-control has significance way beyond merely saying “no” to second helpings. With Walter Mischel, Lesley Fellows and Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris.
Walter Mischel’s celebrated Marshmallow Test, designed to explore our ability to exercise self-control, has come of age. Data from the 1960s experiment coupled with new brain scan technology has revealed just how central our ability to wait for things can be. Now 21st Century gaming technology seeks to use what psychologists and neurologists have learnt since the test’s creation to design games with increasingly sophisticated elements. Quentin Cooper discusses the issue of restraint with Walter Mischel, neurologist Lesley Fellows and games designer Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris.
(Photo: Macaroons. Credit: Getty Images)
Marshmallow Test revisited
Neural basis of self-control
60 Second Idea
A Consequence Magnifier to resist temptation
The video gamer’s dilemma
Walter Mischel, is an American psychologist best known for his groundbreaking study on delayed gratification known as “the marshmallow test”. Follow-up studies showed that high delayers achieved greater academic success and more-positive relationships. This breakthrough research demonstrated not only that willpower can be learned but also that it seems to be “a protective buffer against the development of all kinds of vulnerabilities later in life.” His latest book is called ‘The Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self Control and How to Master it.’
Lesley Fellows is a neurologist specializing in disorders of cognition, working currently at McGill University in Montreal Canada. She has a particular interest in the functions of the frontal lobes. Her research programme focuses on the brain basis of decision making in humans, using the tools of cognitive neuroscience. She studies how focal brain damage or neurochemical dysfunction affects all aspects of decision making, how options are generated and organized, how they are valued and compared, and how choices are made.
Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris is an independent game developer, currently at her one-woman studio The Tiniest Shark, and videogames PhD researcher at University of Portsmouth, UK. She makes and thinks about videogames. Most recently, she made a game called Redshirt, a satirical sci-fi social networking simulator. Mitu studied Computer Engineering and won a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit Award last year for her work.
60 Second Idea to Change the World
Lesley Fellows argues that self-restraint is hard when we can so clearly see the immediate rewards of a piece of cake. We can vividly imagine the immediate reward and find it harder to appreciate the accumulated downside of many pieces of cake. As these choices are repeated, the cake-eater becomes obese or the smoker becomes ill with heart disease. Dr Fellows argues that we could develop a ‘Consequence Magnifier’ which, worn as an eye piece, will calculate the aggregated outcome involved in all decisions and send all the information straight into the brain. A tech support for foresight.
(Photo: Cupcakes. Credit: Getty Images)