Posts categorized “Uncategorized”.

Reliable Circumstances

Last week the University of Rochester announced a very interesting update to the famous “Marshmallow Study”. In the original study, children were put in a room and given a single treat, after which the researcher left the room for a time. The children were told that they could eat the treat if they wanted to, but that if they waited until the researcher returned fifteen minutes later, they would be given a second treat in addition to the first. In follow-up studies decades later, kids who held out longer, despite the temptation to eat the first treat, were shown to have better “success” on all kinds of qualitative and quantitative measures.

In the study released this week, researchers showed that they could influence the wait times of children by manipulating the reliability of the researcher. In the “unreliable” case, researchers made promises that they failed to deliver on. In the “reliable” case, researchers made the same promises, but did deliver. Kids given the “unreliable” researchers waited for significantly less time than the average from the original study, while kids given the “reliable” researchers waited significantly longer, which findings suggest that an overall sense of the reliability of their environment heavily influences children’s tendency to delay gratification.

Math Anxiety in Early Elementary Students

A new study out of the University of Chicago tracks “math anxiety” in early elementary students. Interestingly, they found that because anxiety most notably affects working memory, it also tends to affect higher-performing students more profoundly than lower-performing students. The idea is that because so often lower-performing students have less robust working memory to begin with, and so use externalization strategies, their achievement on math tests is less affected by anxiety.

(Link to an article about the study here.)

Mastering Self-Control

Went to see Roy Baumeister and John Tierney give a brief talk about willpower (based on their book “Willpower”) at Town Hall last night. It was a cursory talk, though Baumeister’s observations of “decision fatigue” were intriguing, as were his claims that similar phenomena illustrate that willpower acts as a muscle. Unfortunately for me, follow-up questions about ADD and other specifics about the potential applications of his theory were barely addressed. In particular, I wonder what Baumeister would say about notions of self-efficacy, which are (for me) a more compelling explanation, at least of the data presented in this 30 minute talk.

ADD research

After hearing Dr. Gabor Maté interviewed on NPR recently, I immediately picked up his book “Scattered“, which has quickly become one of my favorite books on ADD. In addition to discussing some of the neurobiology (Dr. Maté claims that ADD is a miscalibration of the dopamine-receptor system due to stress in early childhood), the book gives clear importance to the emotional context within which the ADD child functions and develops. Most importantly, perhaps, he re-frames ADD in terms of development. “Attention Deficit”, he claims, is not a static disorder, but a sign that the development of the individual has been arrested. From that perspective, he provides insight into how to help continue that development, particularly in the context of emotionally supportive relationships.