Walter Mischel Remembrances

first_imgWalter Mischel, Psychologist Who Created ‘Marshmallow Test,’ Dies at 88The Washington PostThe experiment was “simplicity itself,” its creator, psychologist Walter Mischel, would later recall. The principal ingredient was a cookie or a pretzel stick or — most intriguingly to the popular imagination — a marshmallow.In what became known as “the marshmallow test,” a child was placed in a room with a treat and presented with a choice. She could eat the treat right away. Or she could wait unaccompanied in the room, for up to 20 minutes, and then receive two treats in reward for her forbearance.Conducting their work at a nursery school on the campus of Stanford University in the 1960s, Dr. Mischel and his colleagues observed responses that were as enlightening as they are enduringly adorable. Some children distracted themselves by putting their fingers in their ears or nose. At least one child caressed the marshmallow as he hungered for it. Only about 30 percent of the children managed to wait for the double reward.Dr. Mischel, who continued his career at Columbia University and died Sept. 12 at 88, followed a cohort of the children for decades and presented his findings to mainstream readers in his 2014 book “The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control is the Engine of Success.”Walter Mischel, 88, Psychologist Famed for Marshmallow Test, DiesThe New York TimesWalter Mischel, whose studies of delayed gratification in young children clarified the importance of self-control in human development, and whose work led to a broad reconsideration of how personality is understood, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.The cause was pancreatic cancer, his daughter Linda Mischel Eisner said.Dr. Mischel was probably best known for the marshmallow test, which challenged children to wait before eating a treat. That test and others like it grew in part out of Dr. Mischel’s deepening frustration with the predominant personality models of the mid-20th century.One model was rooted in Freudian thinking and saw people as prisms of unconscious, often conflicting desires. The other was based on personality questionnaires, or “inventories,” and categorized people as having certain traits, like recklessness or restraint, at levels that were fairly stable over time.Neither model was particularly predictive of what people actually did in experiments, Dr. Mischel concluded, in part because the models ignored context: the specifics of a given situation, who is there, what a person’s goals are, the rewards and risks of acting on impulse. More of our Members in the Media >last_img

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