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A Tale of Radishes and Cookies March 30, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Humor, Mindfulness, People.

Psychologists performed a study described in an article and video by Dan Heath:  Why Change is So Hard ~ Self Control is Exhaustible.

An excerpt from the article/video:

Students come into a lab. It smells amazing—someone has just baked chocolate-chip cookies

On a table in front of them, there are two bowls.  One has the fresh-baked cookies. The other has a bunch of radishes


Some of the students are asked to eat cookies but no radishes. Others are told to eat radishes but no cookies.

Then, the two groups are asked to do a second, seemingly unrelated task—basically a kind of logic puzzle where they have to trace out a complicated geometric pattern without raising their pencil. Unbeknownst to them, the puzzle can’t be solved.

Dan Heath, co-author of Switch ~ How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, concludes his anecdote with:

The scientists are curious how long they’ll persist at a difficult task. 

The cookie-eaters try again and again, for an average of 19 minutes, before they give up.

But the radish-eaters—they only last an average of 8 minutes. 

What gives?

The answer may surprise you:  They ran out of self-control.

James-the-CatHmm . . . I’m not convinced.

The idea that the subjects “ran out of self-control” is only ONE possible explanation for the difference . . . NOT a foregone conclusion.  Other possibilities abound.

Perhaps the people who ate the cookies:

A.  had more energy for puzzle solving due to a spike in glucose levels.
B.  didn’t realize the puzzle couldn’t be solved due to brain fog.
C.  wanted to cooperate because they’d been given fresh-baked cookies.

Likewise, perhaps the subjects offered radishes instead of cookies:

A.  stopped sooner because they were hungry and wanted to go to lunch.
B.  realized, with no sugar high, that the puzzle couldn’t be solved.
C.  resented being offered radishes instead of cookies and didn’t cooperate.

The study, as described, reminds me of something I might have set up and conducted in my freshman dorm for extra credit in Psychology 101.

Scruffy-CatEven then, with no training, I would have factored in the  immediate short-term effects of reward (chocolate chip cookies) and punishment (raw radishes) on subjects.

Perhaps there was more to the study than shared in the video.

Let’s hope so.

All I can conclude from this study (as recounted) . . . if we want people to participate and cooperate fully when we ask them to solve impossible puzzles, we should serve cookies, not radishes.

Let yourself be drawn by the pull of what you really love.  ~ Rumi

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related posts: Ego Depletion (additional data on the radish/cookie study) * Lazy or Exhausted ~ Radishes or Cookies (T4D) * Don’t Monkey With Equitable Pay (T4D)

Lights Out! March 30, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Nature, Sustainable Living.

Tomorrow night’s the night . . . lights out for one hour:

We have the power to change the world:

 We only have one planet.  You can help protect it. Participate in the world’s largest single campaign for the planet: Earth Hour. It starts by turning off your lights for an hour at 8:30 pm on March 31, 2012 in a collective display of commitment to a better future for the planet.  Think what can be achieved when we all come together for a common cause.

Aah . . . that’s better!