Thursday, 1 March 2012

Ms Haribo on Haribo

Great minds must think alike because, having written my blog on willpower, Ms Haribo sent me this blog on the same topic but with some other ways to avoid temptation which some of you may find helpful to get you through lent! Enjoy!

While I love haribo I'm not really a fan of the adverts as I really hate over-acting children, but the latest one I saw piqued my interest (apologies if it is outdated). In the advert the children are allowed two sweets if they are able to resist eating the haribo in front of them. Of course they can't resist the haribo!

But the reason it made me interested is it actually, consciously or not, recreates a very famous experiment in the world of economics and personality research called "the marshmallow experiment" Back in the 60s a scientist called Walter Mischel offered children one marshmallow with the promise of two if the child could hold on and not eat it until the scientist returned in a few minutes. There's lots of video footage of children struggling not to eat the marshmallow.

What is more interesting about the experiment is the follow up. About 15 years later he followed up on his subjects and found that those who were able to delay gratification were more successful on a number of outcomes (e.g. test scores, drug use, body mass index and social competence).

Unfortunately some of our ability to delay gratification is hard-wired into our neural circuitry, and learning not to succumb to instant gratification certainly has its rewards.  But that doesn't mean that we can't do anything about it. One thing you can see from the videos is that the people who are more successful at resisting temptation invent distractions such as physically restraining themselves or looking away.  I've talked about commitment devices before but these can be difficult to find  and truly commit to (even Stephen Levitt can't come up with good ones in Freakonomics) but distraction can be just as good. These can be simple things such as going to talk to someone, going for a walk, listening to some music (to drown out the thoughts of those singing tangfastics)

Miss Haribo


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