Thursday, January 22, 2009

Marshmallows as a personality test

The almost always interesting psych professor from Stanford, Philip Zimbardo, has a new book about how we experience time. This is indeed the guy you read about in your intro to psych class about the "Stanford Prison Experiment".

One of the things he talks about is another famous experiment tempting four year olds with marshmallows. You can see the brief video (and pitch for his new book) here. They retested the children 14 years later, and the kids that could delay marshmallow gratification were ... well I won't spoil it for you.

If you want more, there is video of his November 2008 presentation to the Commonwealth Club. Too long, but he also talks about how anti-drug programs like DARE don't work (and about addiction in general), risky driving, Monterey Bay sardines, and predictors of whether patients will complete their physical therapy.

At about 50:30 in the Commonwealth Club talk, Zimbardo talks about Fresno State prof's Bob Levine's book A Geography of Time. It is a different approach to time, and has some interesting culture-clash stories.

Bonus: More famous psych experiments you may have heard of: Elliot Aronson's "jigsaw classroom" technique for cooperative learning, and Stanley Milgram's shocking experiment.

Exercise for the reader: Design an experiment using marshmallows to screen applicants for software engineering jobs :)