Why children are tempted by marshmallows

The most famous, and controversial, food in developmental psychology is the marshmallow. This humble creation of sugar and gelatin was raised to fame by Walter Mischel, who many years ago plunked marshmallows in front of preschoolers and instructed them not to eat them. The immediate results, dramatized in the video below, are not exactly surprising: Children…

Smiles really might warm your heart (or brain)

Part 1 of 2 about the overlap between social and physical perception. Those heartwarming touches can give us a warm feeling inside, and help us warm up to someone we don’t know well. On the other hand, a cold-hearted person will leave us cold, and if you give people the cold shoulder too often your…

Why you should never take notes on a laptop

I may teach in the 21st century, but I like my classroom technology-free: no smartphones, and not even any laptops or iPads for students to take notes on. Naturally, some 21st century students object to these luddite tendencies. And if I could just get them to listen to the great new research on laptops, perhaps…

Rethinking anger on the road to peace

Cognitive reappraisal, a technique for reinterpreting negative emotions in a more balanced or detached way, may have come across as a weak link in the mental modification toolkit last week: it did not succeed in making people more compassionate, and in fact seemed to make it easier for people to push away any guilt about taking a more…

A duck and a rabbit walk into a book….

Every now and then, you find psychology in the children’s section of the bookstore. I don’t mean in the books that teach children how to control their emotions, or teach parents how their children think. Sometimes, psychology sneaks in an unexpected ways, as in Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Duck! Rabbit!, which is animated in this video: The…

Keeping Past and Future at a Distance

One day a few years ago I asked my students to meditate with their hands on the desk in front of them. They were to designate one hand to represent the past, and the other hand to represent the future. Whenever they noticed their attention had drifted away from their breath, they would note whether…

The lingering legacy of fridge magnets

Any household with young children likely features a set of colorful fridge magnets representing all the letters of the alphabet. They are a puzzle to me, because having only one copy of each letter gives you a very limited range of what might be spelt, and a bane to any parent who has had to…

Let There Be Meditating Light

What do you see when you meditate? Is it the back of your eyelids, a boring spot on the floor just a few feet in front of you? Or is it perhaps something more startling, like little pinpricks of light, or a sense that the world is glowing? If you have seen those lights, don’t…

What Color Tastes Like

Start reading the ingredients list on pre-packaged foods, and you may be in for a surprise. I’m not talking about the “high fructose corn syrup” that always appears to be the second main ingredient, or the various preservatives only a chemist or National Spelling Bee contestant has any hopes of pronouncing; although those often make…