The Marshmallow Study Revisited

For the past four decades, the “marshmallow test” has served as a classic experimental measure of children’s self-control: will a preschooler eat one of the fluffy white confections now or hold out for two later?

Now a  new study demonstrates that being able to delay gratification is influenced as much by the environment as by innate ability. Children who experienced reliable interactions immediately before the marshmallow task waited on average four times longer—12 versus three minutes—than youngsters in similar but unreliable situations.

The article explores the issues in some depth.

“Your Diet Affects Your Grandchildren’s DNA, Scientists Say,” and other stories

Your Diet Affects Your Grandchildren’s DNA, Scientists Say

Sharp Decline in Terror Attacks After Bin Laden Death

Pop Music All Sounds the Same Nowadays

Your Diet Affects Your Grandchildren’s DNA, Scientists Say

This goes against everything I was taught in high school (1970-73) and invites comparisons to the doctrines of Lysenko. Neither of those features rules out the possibility of this being accurate science.

Sharp Decline in Terror Attacks After Bin Laden Death

I guess it worked.

Pop Music All Sounds the Same Nowadays

So the suspicions many of us have had are confirmed. I suspect this is a temporary situation that will correct itself once more creative artists arrive on the scene. I do not endorse some of the researchers’ suggestions:

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* What the little birds told me

The pigeons.  Years ago, when I had an office job downtown, I’d wait for the bus every afternoon on the south side of Baltimore Street one or two blocks east of Charles.  Often, someone tossed down several handfuls of torn-up bread for the birds to eat, and I’d have time to watch them.

For the most part, the pigeons acted just as you’d expect:  eating together, share and share alike.  But I noticed one individual whose conduct was quite different.  This guy never picked up any food from the ground.  He never seemed to notice any food on the ground.  Instead, he’d notice what someone else was eating, and go over and take it away from that person.  Time and time again, he did this.

Put this fellow down on top of a pile of food, and he’d starve to death, because he’d never pick up any for himself.  Put another pigeon with him, and he’d be OK — taking away what the other one picks up to eat.

How much closer can you get to the way some people act; who will not do anything for themselves, but only take away what someone else has worked for?  Can there be a gene for this?

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When I lived in Barclay, I maintained a bird feeder in the back yard — different locations, but always visible from the kitchen window.  Two species used to visit the feeder in flocks: sparrows and starlings.  There might be fifty sparrows or fifty starlings there at a time.  Continue reading