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Jordan Peterson on The Marshmallow Test

ChrisV

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This was a really famous piece of research in the 1970's and discussed many times on this forum, but I figured I'd post it for those who aren't very familiar with it and I know there are a number of Jordan Peterson fans on here.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jY_LpSH-w0


From the Wikipedia Entry on the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment:

In follow-up studies, Mischel found unexpected correlations between the results of the marshmallow test and the success of the children many years later.[5] The first follow-up study, in 1988, showed that "preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent."[citation needed]

A second follow-up study, in 1990, showed that the ability to delay gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores.[5]

A 2006 paper to which Mischel contributed reports a similar experiment, this time relating ability to delay in order to receive a cookie (at age 4) and reaction time on a go/no go task. [9]

A 2011 brain imaging study of a sample from the original Stanford participants when they reached mid-life showed key differences between those with high delay times and those with low delay times in two areas: the prefrontal cortex (more active in high delayers) and the ventral striatum, (more active in low delayers) when they were trying to control their responses to alluring temptations.[10][11]
 

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Zubayer Mirza

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At what point would someone just be torturing himself with delayed gratification? I feel like there are many people like me who are just torturing themselves when they could be doing more to help themselves.
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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At what point would someone just be torturing himself with delayed gratification? I feel like there are many people like me who are just torturing themselves when they could be doing more to help themselves.
Well the point of delayed gratification isn't to torture yourself.. it's just beneficial in many circumstances to ignore immediate rewards for larger ones that are in the future. For instance, will you choose the immediate reward of eating a cheesecake, or will you hold out for the bigger reward of being in great shape. There's no need to torture yourself for no reason.
 

MHP368

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ChrisV

ChrisV

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Its actually been debunked , affluence was the correlate for success not marshmallow self control

Which he should know as a clinical psychologist but being an IDW hack is more profitable so facts are whatever
We've already been through this 100x. There are a lot of confounding factors here. For instance:

These controls included measures of the child’s socioeconomic status, intelligence, personality, and behavior problems.
These are atrocious controls. Why? Because self control predicts almost all of those things. It predicts every single one of those factors aside from intelligence. Impulsivity predicts behavioral problems. Impulsivity predicts personality (most specifically the trait Conscientiousness.) Impulsivity predicts socioeconomic status. So when you pull each one of those out, you're basically measuring nothing. So of course you're going to find a smaller effect.

Affluent parents have high self-control, and then their kids pick up that self-control and become affluent.

There is mountains of research on this. Self-control is the best predictor of life success besides intelligence. And it's really close. Like come on... of course affluence predicts success, because self-control predicts affluence. Impulsivity is the best predictor of poverty, again aside from intelligence.

People with poor self control make poor decisions. Period. They choose junk food over healthy foods. They choose video games over exercise. They make rash and impulsive spending decisions. They have angry outbursts at those they love. They spend rather than save. They don't plan for the future. These behaviors are known as 'Conscientiousness.'


Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being careful, or diligent. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well, and to take obligations to others seriously. Conscientious people tend to be efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and disorderly. They exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; they display planned rather than spontaneous behavior; and they are generally dependable. It is manifested in characteristic behaviors such as being neat, and systematic; also including such elements as carefulness, thoroughness, and deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting.)[1] Conscientiousness is one of the five traits of both the Five Factor Model and the HEXACO model of personality and is an aspect of what has traditionally been referred to as having character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard-working, and reliable. They are also likely to be conformists.[2] When taken to an extreme, they may also be "workaholics", perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior.[3] People who score low on conscientiousness tend to be laid back, less goal-oriented, and less driven by success; they also are more likely to engage in antisocial and criminal behavior.[4]
And if you think Peterson is a 'hack' then you really don't pay attention to the field of Psychology. Even before his rise to fame he was one of the most accomplished researchers in psychology of this generation. On top of being a former Harvard professor and acclaimed researcher, he has over 11,000 citations, and had an h-index of over 50.


To put that in perspective, the average h-index of most Nobel Prize winners is around 40. Jordan Peterson is in the top 1% of the top 1% of research psychologists. If you think that's a 'hack' I would love to hear who you think is more reliable.

Self-control have been heavily researched is not contingent upon one experiment.
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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Economist Jason Collins made a great post on this.


A common theme I see on my weekly visits to Twitter is the hordes piling onto the latest psychological study or effect that hasn’t survived a replication or meta-analysis. More often than not, the study deserves the criticism. But recently, the hordes have occasionally swung into action too quickly.
The main point to emerge from this replication is that there is an association between the delay in gratification and academic achievement, but the correlation (0.28) is only half to two-thirds of that found in the original study.
Even though it's not as large as the original study, a correlation of .3 is enormous in social sciences. No one who does research ever expects a perfect 1.0 correlation. Like even a .5 correlation is literally astronomical. .2 is a 'pretty great day.' .3? As a psychologist if you find a correlation of .3 for just about anything.. that's career-changing. Like, your colleagues are throwing you a huge F*cking party. You're a celebrity. The original finding found it to be like... .58 or something, which everyone knew wasnt the true correlation. So essentially they're saying 'the effect after controlling for socioeconomic status, intelligence, personality, and behavior problems is smaller than we originally found'.. well duh... but it doesn't matter because .3 is still enormous.

The replication is absolutely, positively not a failure. Anyone who works in research could have told you that would have happened. Everyone knows when you add controls the effect size gets smaller. But regardless, a .3 correlation is still an amazing find.

Marshmallow Test is legit.
 

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Its actually been debunked , affluence was the correlate for success not marshmallow self control

Which he should know as a clinical psychologist but being an IDW hack is more profitable so facts are whatever
God I really hate research reporting:

So how did the marshmallow test explode so spectacularly?
followed immediately by

The correlation was in the same direction as in Mischel’s early study. It was statistically significant, like the original study. ... this finding says that observing a child for seven minutes with candy can tell you something remarkable about how well the child is likely to do in high school.
Obviously, producing the same result = spectacular explosion. I wish everything I did exploded so spectacularly.
 

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At what point would someone just be torturing himself with delayed gratification? I feel like there are many people like me who are just torturing themselves when they could be doing more to help themselves.
I really don't see it as torturing myself anymore. It just becomes natural once you understand yourself and human nature. You don't even think about it anymore. It just becomes a natural habit and you know what to focus on and what not to focus on in life.

I wasn't always like this of course, but it's basically choosing to deliberately self-discipline yourself. I can walk in a store and buy nothing. I'm not enticed by shiny objects anymore. It's a blessing, because I don't need anything. If I want it, I think about it before I buy it. I will even research before buying. I will take days sometimes before I make a decision.
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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God I really hate research reporting:

followed immediately by

Obviously, producing the same result = spectacular explosion. I wish everything I did exploded so spectacularly.
Yea, I deal with this stuff all the time. Even reliable sources like Scientific American are horrible at reporting science. They take one study as conclusive evidence of a hypothesis. It's really hard for laypeople to get a conclusive idea of what's going on.
 

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“Excellently observed,” answered Candide; “but now we must tend our garden.”
 

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MHP368

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Thats not ehat it said though

"often lead to new and deeper understandings of how different factors work together to produce outcomes. Mischel’s marshmallow test inspired more-elaborate measures of self-control and deeper theories linking impoverished environments to diminished self-control. Those theories—and piles of data—suggest that poverty makes people focus on the short term because when resources are scarce and the future is uncertain, focusing on present needs is the smart thing to do. However, when chronic poverty leads to a daily focus on the present, it undermines long term goals like education, savings, and investment, making poverty worse."

So poor kids had lower self control , rich kids better. Because theyd learned quite logically that because of the poverty they were better off taking quick rewards. So the marshmallow test doesnt tell us anything about self control brcause once you factor in socioeconomics the effect was gone. Poor kids were roughly as good as other poor kids , rich kids as rich kids.


You can see this in the real world with homelessness worsening substance abuse , its logical survival behavior to take your panhandling money and go black out in a ditch instead of saving for an apartment down payment because you get jumped and robbed all the time anyway.

The original post that quotes brain scans just shows that being raised in poverty has profound long term negative consequences on important neuro circuitry correlated with socialization and late life success.


We have no chicken or the egg question here , the poverty causes the delayed gratification.
 

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We have no chicken or the egg question here , the poverty causes the delayed gratification.
I assume you mean "immediate" gratification. I wonder what the above disagreement is really about. I feel like anyone here should be more likely to agree than disagree about the larger picture around "the marshmallow test." Does anyone think the marshmallow test itself is the important thing here? What we have is a study that correlates the ability to delay gratification with later success.

It is very, very common to find multiple related correlations in the quest to identify cause. And it's pretty common to find causal chains. These relationships being complex is obvious. It doesn't invalidate the research, it builds upon it.

For example, if further research somehow showed:
  • that poverty causes parents to teach their children (deliberately or not) to take the cash now; and then
  • that a preference for immediate gratification over larger long-term rewards caused consistently worse economic outcomes (which intuitively seems pretty likely - can we say that?); and then
  • that the aggregate of those outcomes is compounding, causing the people with a preference for immediate gratification to do much worse; and then
  • that teaching a preference for larger long term gains over immediate gains improves the economic outcomes for people raised in poverty... changing their lives for the better despite impoverished upbringing.
All of these investigations are possible because the correlation was fist established. If it turns out that you can improve outcomes for people, based on information we can gain from investigations such as this, do we all want to know about it?
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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We have no chicken or the egg question here , the poverty causes the delayed gratification.
You mean affluence caused delayed gratification. And you have no idea what you're talking about. Nothing in science is ever that simple. It's often a complex feedback loop.. not "A causes B"

Edit, actually just for shits and giggles.. if the effect were that black and white, we would expect to see that lottery winners would have a significant increase in self-control. Would you like to place that bet? Say $100? If you win you'll not only have an extra 100 bucks, but you'll also have more self-control :p No, kidding.. but I'm serious about that bet. If the shows shows more than 5% of the variance, I'll pay.
 
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ChrisV

ChrisV

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[...] suggest that poverty makes people focus on the short term because when resources are scarce and the future is uncertain, focusing on present needs is the smart thing to do. However, when chronic poverty leads to a daily focus on the present, it undermines long term goals like education, savings, and investment, making poverty worse."
There is truth to this, but none of this explains the rest of the .3 variance when you factor out socioeconomic status.

So poor kids had lower self control , rich kids better. Because theyd learned quite logically that because of the poverty they were better off taking quick rewards. So the marshmallow test doesnt tell us anything about self control brcause once you factor in socioeconomics the effect was gone. Poor kids were roughly as good as other poor kids , rich kids as rich kids.
Did you not read my last post? After you factor out soceoeconomic status the effect is still a whopping .3. Is it the astronomical .6 first predicted by the original study? No. But .3 is still enormous.

Again, after you factor out Socioeconomic Status, the effect is still .3, a very large effect.


its logical survival behavior to take your panhandling money and go black out in a ditch instead of saving for an apartment down payment
... seriously? is this a serious argument?

The original post that quotes brain scans just shows that being raised in poverty has profound long term negative consequences on important neuro circuitry correlated with socialization and late life success.
Interesting conclusion.. is that scientific fact or your interpretation of the data? Because I'd be interested to see if that was the researchers concluded.

I assume you mean "immediate" gratification. I wonder what the above disagreement is really about. I feel like anyone here should be more likely to agree than disagree about the larger picture around "the marshmallow test." Does anyone think the marshmallow test itself is the important thing here? What we have is a study that correlates the ability to delay gratification with later success.

It is very, very common to find multiple related correlations in the quest to identify cause. And it's pretty common to find causal chains. These relationships being complex is obvious. It doesn't invalidate the research, it builds upon it.

For example, if further research somehow showed:
  • that poverty causes parents to teach their children (deliberately or not) to take the cash now; and then
  • that a preference for immediate gratification over larger long-term rewards caused consistently worse economic outcomes (which intuitively seems pretty likely - can we say that?); and then
  • that the aggregate of those outcomes is compounding, causing the people with a preference for immediate gratification to do much worse; and then
  • that teaching a preference for larger long term gains over immediate gains improves the economic outcomes for people raised in poverty... changing their lives for the better despite impoverished upbringing.
All of these investigations are possible because the correlation was fist established. If it turns out that you can improve outcomes for people, based on information we can gain from investigations such as this, do we all want to know about it?
Bingo. This is exactly right. That's exactly what something like a .4 correlation means. A .4 correlation means that it explains it explains ~16% of the variance. Again, in Social Psych you almost never find a 1.0 correlation. A 1.0 correlation would mean there's a cause that explains 100% of an effect. People want things to be cut and dry and black and white, chicken or egg, but that's almost never how the world works. They want to find the one cause that leads to the one effect. They want coffee to prevent cancer and they want donuts to cause cancer.

At least pert of how it seems to work is that a propensity for immediate rewards leads to laziness. For instance, people would rather the immediate reward of playing video games rather than the delayed reward that would come from working extra hours.

The best personality predictor of success is a trait called Conscientiousness, which is synonymous with self-control. If you zoom in on that there are two facets of Conscientiousness: orderliness (neatness) and industriousness (hardworking-ness). Orderliness isn't a very good predictor, but industriousness is. In other words, the propensity to work hard is a great predictor of life success.

But according to @MHP368 it's being wealthy that leads to being a hard worker. I mean if you're poor, being lazy is the 'logical survival' thing to do.

But we don't know that the behavior is 'taught.' Be do know that the way their brains work is much different. The gratification-delayers seem to think with their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with high order functions like long-term planning) and the immediate-reward-takers think with the limbic system (basically the lizard brain) which is associated with low-level emotions.

There are a lot of things that predict wealth, but statistically the two biggies are intelligence and self-control/hard work.
 
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ChrisV

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In reality to prove causality, ideally you need a controlled experiment. That will show the direction 100%.

Here’s how we settle this. What if we had some magic pill that magically increased self control? Would that lead to an increase in Academic performance or work performance? If we had some magic pill that increased self-control and decreased impulsivity. Well fortunately, we do have that pill. It’s called Ritalin. Or Adderal. Or Modafinil. And guess what? They definitely do improve academic and work performance.

If self control didnt have an effect on life success, you would see no effect on academic and work performance. But I will give @MHP368 credit for at least having an informed argument.
 

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