Wednesday, December 1, 2010


          Procrastination is something that I know plagues most of us as we go throughout our lives, and I’m the first to admit that I have been and still find myself a huge victim of it. It’s something that I have always struggled with and, I suspect, I always will.
          Today, while listening to the newest SModcast, I heard about this test called the “Marshmallow Test.” What this consisted of was putting a child in a room by themselves and giving them a marshmallow. The children, ages 3 and up, were told that could eat their marshmallow whenever they wanted to, however, if they waited until adult came back to eat it, then they could have two marshmallows. This test was actually originally conducted in the 60s and 70s and Dr. Walter Mischel, the creator of the experiment, actually followed up with these children well into adulthood.
          The “Marshmallow Test” concluded that the children who could wait the few minutes for the second marshmallow were, overall, more successful in life. Of the children who ate it quickly, a large portion ended up having difficulties in school and ended up with an average of 200 points lower on their SAT. The children who immediately ate their snack were victim of “present bias”.

          Present bias is thinking about the present first and leaving your future self to deal with the consequences. It’s like being on a diet: you tell yourself you’re going to start on Monday, then, when Monday rolls around, you would rather eat the cupcake than scarf the salad. Instinctually, this is how people are wired. Don’t worry about the future because it’s not guaranteed; concern yourself with the here and now. Philosophically speaking, that’s fine, but what happens when you have a 20 page paper due on Friday and it’s Thursday night? Present bias kicks you in the rear then.
          We need to stop acting so instinctually and stop listening to self help “gurus” who say to not worry about the future. Of course we need to worry about the future! If not for the future, then why are we doing all of this work in the present?
          I’ll link an article on procrastination at the end of this blog today that I hope you will read. It’s extremely interesting and the guy who wrote it knows way more than I do. I’m just acting as a knowledge conduit for you. I’ll lead you to the knowledge, but I can’t make you drink. Or something. I’m off to go eat some marshmallows with Grayson.

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