Mischel’s The Marshmallow Test

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success
Walter Mischel

You probably know the Marshmallow test. Young children are offered a marshmallow. They can eat it right now. But if they wait, they can get two marshmallows. The children were then tracked through to adulthood and by and large, the children who could wait did better by almost every outcome of success – health, stable relationships, income, etc.

The test is famous, and every yuppie Brooklyn parent I know references it constantly. This is a book written by the dude who designed and implemented the test. You’d think it would be revelatory in its insights into how we can develop the mindset and skills needed to lead a fulfilling life. If you’re a normal person, who doesn’t read self-improvement books all the time or await the new David Epstein or Cal Newport book with bated breath, then their might be a lot here for you. But if you’re me, someone who follows the science of this stuff relatively closely, this is, frankly all old hat. There is interesting anecdotes, for sure. On how they developed the test, more on who the kids were and what became of them, and interesting additional experiments – all of which I’d already heard of. I enjoyed it well enough, but it wasn’t worth my time. Your mileage may vary.

Recommended for the (budding) enthusiast.

Review: Levitin’s the Organized Mind

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Daniel Levitin

I’m a sucker for the books incorporating behavioral science and cognitive research in a self-help self-improvement framework. Give me the cliff notes versions of studies on how I can be more productive/focused/healthier, etc.  package it up with some charts and smart writing and I’m sold.

That’s exactly what this book is, and I enjoyed it. Levitin is a legit scientist (he’s a Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience at McGill University) and it shows in the clarity of writing here. Many of the ideas presented here on decision fatigue, category management, the downsides to multi-tasking, have been discussed in the popular press for years. But Levitin brings a serious to the subject matter that I found helpful. The book is too long and it lacks in the simple implementable steps of a Getting Things Done, but I think it might still be worth checking out if this specific subspecies of self-help book is your jam.


Recommended for the enthusiast.