On the marshmallow test

Wednesday 30 June 2010, 09:46

Show a four-year-old child some marshmallows and a bell. Tell them that you're going to leave the room for a while (fifteen or twenty minutes). Say that if they ring the bell, you'll come back and give them a marshmallow. However, say that if they don't ring the bell, but wait until you come back without ringing it, then you will give them two marshmallows. Record what happens.

Ten years later, assess the child's personality and general success in life by means of a questionnaire sent to their parents. What you discover is that the ones who rang the bell, or who rang it earlier, score relatively poorly on questions that measure social adjustment, "emotional intelligence," and so on. The ones who didn't ring the bell, or rang it later, score much better on those measures, and also score better on the SAT. Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., Peake, P. K. (1990). Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions. Developmental Psychology, 26(6) [PDF]

The part I think is really interesting is what the authors of that paper don't say about the experimental protocol.

An index for all reasons

Sunday 27 June 2010, 16:52

There are probably as many reasons to save money as there are savers. One of mine is as follows: I don't want to be forced to change my lifestyle. In particular, after I'm retired and living on the savings I create today, I don't want to find myself in a situation where, because of changes in the world beyond my control that affect prices, the money I put aside to buy goods for myself during retirement is no longer enough to cover the kind of lifestyle I intended for myself, and so I'm forced to cut back. I want someone else, not me, to be accountable for cutting back to make sure I don't have to, and I'm willing to pay money up front in order to remove belt-tightening from the list of things I have to take responsibility for.

Another wacky theory

Sunday 20 June 2010, 16:39

I just noticed that the way Téodor gets out of his horrific night of high school fun with Nice Pete, is exactly the same way that Kyon gets out of his horrific time loop of high school fun with Haruhi. You realize what this means, don't you?


Thursday 17 June 2010, 22:54

I spoke but you were all you'd hear:
You think I've won but you don't know the game
Now I must go where you can't lead
The blame for this is not on you to bear.
What can I say so you will know
What all my words to now could not make clear
How far to ride for one more chance
How much not to give up the pride I claim?
You say that I don't have to leave
You'll hide me from the flame and keep me safe
As if I had not heard that one
As if you had not seen the burns I wear.
To get out of the fire was not my goal
You can't hold on to me that way.

You can't hold on to me that way:
I spoke but you were all you'd hear
Now I must go where you can't lead.
What can I say so you will know
How far to ride for one more chance?
You say that I don't have to leave
As if I had not heard that one
You can't hold on to me that way.

What all my words to now could not make clear:
The blame for this is not on you to bear.
How much not to give up the pride I claim?
You'll hide me from the flame and keep me safe
As if you had not seen the burns I wear.
To get out of the fire was not my goal.
You think I've won but you don't know the game.
You can't hold on to me that way;
I spoke, but you were all you'd hear.


Friday 30 November 2001, 22:51

I was in the computer lab, just finishing off the last of the coding for my assignment. There'd still be doc to do, and the way my luck was running they'd change the requirements again at the last minute anyway - Oh, didn't we mention that it had to be portable to the ZX-81? Gee, we thought that was obvious! - but I could deal with all that stuff in the morning. I heard a noise, and I looked up to see a man walking through the door. That was a little unusual. It was almost midnight and I was the only person in the place and he didn't look like a student anyway, nor a prof that I recognized. He was in his fifties, maybe. Medium height, thin, the most noticeable thing was his odd hairstyle - bald on top but long light brown hair in the back, drawn into a pony tail. He was wearing a black suit that looked heavily worn and a little too small for him, and several silvery metal rings high on the cartilege of each ear.

The blessed ones

Thursday 29 November 2001, 22:14

The blessed ones, damn them, I wish they'd leave me alone. They start in just when the moon is slipping into that eclipse position, just at the corners, the fringes. My peripheral vision is pretty good, I can detect movement in practically any direction, but I can only see clearly through my glasses. So when they start sneaking into my field of view I only see their vague forms, green and pink, right on the edge there, I can't see their faces at all.


Wednesday 28 November 2001, 22:07

It's not the same when you go back but you do too have to go back, that is the law, the closure of the set. Wherever you draw the line of your path, there'll be those places in the margin. You see the surfaces as you pass, you infer what's behind them, and some day before you leave you must stop and take a look, fix the images in your mind because it won't be the same and even the first time it isn't how you imagined, always a surprise as that is information, I told you before: it's not what you imagined even the first time, and the second time you don't see what you thought you remembered the first time.

Pink Terra

Tuesday 27 November 2001, 20:11

After Contact, all our petty global economic concerns became irrelevant. Large-scale hyperspace transport made imports cheap; almost anything that humans would want could be grown or manufactured more cheaply on some other planet. Like all new frontier worlds, Terra was forced to concentrate on its few unique local industries, the things we invented that no other planet had ever seen before.


Monday 26 November 2001, 22:31

Homeopathic medicine is based on the claim that the dose-response curve does a funky little dipsy doodle near zero, so that extremely small doses of various substances can produce therapeutic effects. For instance, there's a homeopathic remedy very popular in France which is made from the heart and liver of a wild duck, diluted by a factor of 10 to the 400th power. You're supposed to take it if you think you're coming down with the flu. The more you know about chemistry and suchlike, the more you're likely to pooh-pooh this idea; after all, there are a lot fewer than 1e400 atoms in the average-sized duck liver, and so the chances are extremely small that any of the original is even present in the medicine at all. You might as well be taking placebo pills, and the systematic double-blind studies (indicating that actually it does work better than placebo pills made without the duck heart even though the duck heart can't possibly be there at all for any practical purpose anyway because it's so diluted), anyway those studies have just gotta be some sort of fraud. It's psuedoscience, dammit! Don't confuse me with journal papers!

The cosmic brokers

Monday 26 November 2001, 00:12

Einstein taught us that space and time can be considered equivalent, and the Gilbreths taught us that time and money are similarly connected. Money, by definition, can be used to buy matter and energy, and those things can also be sold for money. These relationships form a sort of skeleton, technically what graph theorists call a "spanning tree", among the five elements of space, time, money, matter, and energy. The existence of a spanning tree, with the transitivity of the equivalence relation, implies a complete graph, with all vertices adjacent to each other. Each of of the Five can be exchanged for any other, and in a perfectly efficient economy, that would be the end of it all.