Would You Pass the Marshmallow Test? Success and Delayed Gratification
By Heath Shive
There are a lot of books and commercials and gurus telling us that we need to be "happy." They tell us how to be happy, how to quest for happiness, how to attain happiness, and what is wrong with us if we are not "happy." They seem to think that the purpose of life is to grab hold of happiness and God help you if you ever let go.
But what if happiness wasn't the point? What if happiness was only at the end of hard work - similar to how dessert was at the end of a meal?
And speaking of desserts, do you like marshmallows?
Scientists at Stanford University once used marshmallows to test the willpower of children. And then the children grew up. What did they find?
To the science!
The Marshmallow Test
In the 1960s, the psychologist Walter Mischel devised "the marshmallow test" to measure the willpower of children.
Mischel and other psychologists at Stanford University presented the children with a challenge: they could either eat a marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and eat 2 marshmallows.
Only a third of the kids were able to resist the temptation.
This in itself isn't all that weird.
But Mischel and the other psychologists found the same children years later and discovered something peculiar.
The kids who showed self-control grew up to be more accomplished both socially and academically. On the average, the kids had higher SAT scores, greater educational attainment, and a lower body mass index.
Is there a correlation between success and delayed gratification?
There was a book - a bestseller 20 years ago - entitled The Millionaire Next Door. The authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko found that the majority of millionaires in their study didn't become rich by being doctors, lawyers, and CEOs.
The majority of millionaires lived in modest houses and had ordinary careers. The millionaires "next door" became wealthy by a lifetime of frugality and savings. For a middle-class American, it would take 40 years of chronic investment to be a millionaire...but that's precisely how most millionaires acquired their wealth!
Not glamorous. Just delayed. Success by constant willpower and self-discipline.
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Mischel, Walter; Ebbesen, Ebbe B.; Raskoff Zeiss, Antonette (1972). "Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 21 (2): 204–218.
Stanley, Thomas J. & William D. Danko. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy. Longstreet Press, 1996.
Doughnuts, Dishonesty, and What Makes a Holiday Disappointing
By H. Shive
Holidays started out as “holy days” – a time for rest and prayer. But there’s no rest for the wicked. Turns out, the wicked steal doughnuts and bagels…and that's how you can judge a holiday.
Don’t believe me?
To the science!
The Bagel Man and His Magic Math
Paul Feldman was an economic analyst for years. He then retired and started a bagel/doughnut delivery business. After a few years, he was delivering over 8,000 bagels a week to over 140 companies. Because he is a former economic analyst, his records are immaculate…and filled to the brim with data to scrutinize.
In an eight-year period, he delivered 1.375 million bagels and over 648 thousand doughnuts.
How often are people honest? Paul Feldman knows the answer. People are honest – on the average – 89% of the time.
What Do Bagels Have To Do With a Bad Holiday?
Because of his mountainous data, Feldman could see all kinds of trends. People are more likely to steal in companies with a large number of employees compared to smaller companies. People are more likely to steal when the weather turns bad, but people will be more generous when the weather is unexpectedly pleasant. When unemployment is high, people are more likely to steal.
People are more likely to steal bagels and doughnuts during Christmas time than any other holiday!
Overall payment rates drop 2 percent (from an 89% honesty rate to 87%) during the week of Christmas. This boost in dishonesty represents an 15% increase in theft!
Thanksgiving is almost as bad. St. Valentine’s Day is “lousy” and so is the week of Tax Day (April 15th).
Here’s another surprise. People were more honest during July 4th, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.
You would think that Christmas would the time of maximum honesty and goodwill. So why the extra bad instead of extra good?
In the acclaimed best-selling book Freakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner reviewed this case of bagel theft in the very first chapter of their book.
They compared the holidays. How are Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day so different from Labor Day and even Columbus Day?
Because holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and St. Valentine’s represent a major financial setback and an overwhelming increase in anxiety. In contrast, holidays like Labor Day and Columbus Day are basically just a day off of work.
What makes a holiday good – or any day of any week, for that matter – is how much stress and anxiety it creates.
But since Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day are not likely to get any easier to bear in the future, things will look bleak for honesty (and doughnut sales) come the holidays.
So remember, when a high-spending holiday looms, keep an eye on your valuables. People are more willing to steal. ‘Tis the season.
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Levitt, Steven D. and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything. William Morrow (HarperCollins imprint), 2005.
Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt (June 6, 2004). "What The Bagel Man Saw". The New York Times.
Gifts and Science: How to Receive the Most and Best
By Heath Shive
There’s the old Biblical proverb, “It’s better to give than receive.” But kids will tell you something different – it is way more fun to receive gifts! Looking at your credit card bill, you might wish you received more too.
But science can help you out.
Whether for Christmas, weddings, baby showers, birthdays, or graduation parties, there’s a scientific way to maximize your gift-receiving selfishness!
Gift Giving Psychology
In 2003, psychologists Gad Saad and Tripat Gill performed a study on young adults to determine how much they spent on gifts and also who received the most expensive gifts.
Specifically, Saad and Gill were predicting that the gift's price would correlate with genetic relatedness. In their paper, genetic relation was measured as the value r, where r equaled the amount of shared genetic material.
For example, your parents would have an r value of 0.50, because you share 50% of your DNA with each parent. Siblings would also have an r value of 0.50. Grandparents (r=0.25), aunts/uncles (r=0.25), half-siblings (r=0.25), cousins (r=0.125), step-relations (r=0), and friends (r=0) were also included.
As Saad and Gill predicted, the study results showed that the closer the genetic relation, the greater the gift. Close family (r = 0.50) received $73.12 on mean average. Moderately close family (r = 0.25) and distant family (r = 0.125) received $19.03 and $18.56 respectively.
How Does This Help Me?
Now you know who to invite to your party or wedding! If you have to choose between your aunts and high-school friends, it’s better to invite your aunts. If you have to choose between your favorite sibling and your best friend for your maid-of-honor/best man, choose your sibling.
Saad & Gill’s study showed other patterns too:
Saad and Gill’s study is far from exhaustive – it was one study of one group from one city. There are bound to be cultural and individual differences. But compare the results above with your own experience. Pretty close, right?
Who spends more money on your wedding: your parents or college buddies? Who will donate a kidney: your family or your friends?
In “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Boss Hogg once said, “Blood is thicker than water, but money is thicker than blood.”
Money is not thicker than blood. Family is always a good investment.
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Saad, Gad and Tripat Gill, “An Evolutionary Psychology Perspective on Gift-Giving among Young Adults,” Psychology & Marketing 20 (2003): 765-84.
John Grant is an antiques expert, but he’s more famous as the author of the Lovejoy series of novels. In the novels, Lovejoy (an antiques forger and all-around scoundrel) explains many scams of the antiques trade, including auction scams and cons. Here are some.
Scams Made by the Auctioneers
1 – Bids “Off The Wall”
The auctioneer pretends to see a bidder on the side or in the back to bump up the price. Let’s say the price for an item is $1,200; you raise your hand to indicate a bid for $1,300. The auctioneer pretends to take a $1,300 bid “off the wall,” then immediately comes to you – so quickly that your hand is still in the air – for a $1,400 bid. The auctioneer moves so quickly that you don’t have time to react or object. If you’re sitting up front or in the middle, you might think this “off the wall” bid was legitimate. Sitting in the back, you could see that there wasn’t any such bid at all.
This scam is also called taking a bid “off the chandelier.”
2 – The Bounce
This is a less-nuanced version of the previous scam. It happened to my dad at an auction in Indianapolis. He was bidding on a car; twenty-four hundred was the price. The auctioneer pointed at my dad and said, “I have four thousand!”
The auctioneer “bounced” the price – considerably – while my dad’s hand was in the air.
In front of a crowd of four hundred people, my dad shouted and called the auctioneer out on the trick. The crowd laughed. The auctioneer mumbled apology, then mumbled something about how it was dad’s fault and continued.
That is your only defense. The auctioneer hopes that you’ll be intimidated by the crowd. But you will have to speak up! This is your money and you must defend it!
3 – The Nelson
If there are friends or cronies in the audience, the auctioneer may want to shuck items to them at a lower price. The auctioneer will pretend not to see you raise your hand, turning a “blind eye” to your bid. Then he cries “Sold!” and closes the bidding quickly.
In England, this scam is called “the nelson,” named after Lord Nelson’s famous trick at Copenhagen.
Again, your defense is to speak up, before the auctioneer can say “Sold.”
Scams by the Bidders
4 – The Milk-Drop
There are at least two people in this scam, though it helps to include a dishonest auctioneer. An item is sold in auction to a Fake Bidder. After the auction, the Fake Bidder goes to the auctioneers, but claims he was bidding on a different item. The Fake Bidder fakes an angry outburst (“Just try to sue me!”) and leaves. Auctioneers hate to have unsold merchandise, especially if they are working on commission.
But who should show up? A Saving Angel! The Saving Angel pretends to overhear this exchange and quickly says, “Oh! That item is available again!” and makes a much lower offer. The auction is over. What else can they do? So they sell the item at a much lower price!
5 – The Shuff
There are at least two people needed for this trick. Let’s say you have a reputation for knowing quality items. When you bid, others will bid against you – trusting that what you bid on must be worth it. This drives the price up. But if you stop bidding, then the others stop bidding too. You drop out – but your secret partner continues bidding. You “shuff” or shuffle the bidding to your partner.
6 – The Lop
Let’s say the bid on the item is beyond your limit. You drop out. But you might still have a chance. Often, “buyer’s regret” will afflict the winning bidders. After the auction, people might find that they overspent, or maybe they enjoyed the bidding process more than the item itself. So after the auction, you just walk up to that person and say, “Excuse me, you won the bid on Item 12. Would you be interested in selling it?” It just might work.
7 – The Waltz
Before the auction, people examine the merchandise. Miscellaneous junk is sold in lots. Looking through the boxes, people might find a pretty little item that they want. What do dishonest people do? They hide that item under the bottom flaps of the cardboard box, or even move the item to another lot. If other people don’t know about the item, the crook gets something he wants for a rock-bottom price.
Referring to an auction, Lovejoy says, “Beneath the kindly exterior…beats the scarlet emotion of pure greed.”
Be careful. Be wise to the scams. And if possible, read the Lovejoy novels.
(Jonathon Gash is the pen name of John Grant)
Gash, Jonathon. The Firefly Gadroon. St. Martin's Press, 1982.
Gash, Jonathon. The Lies of Fair Ladies. St. Martin's Press, 1992.
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[This article first published on the blog of Expedite Home Loans]
As of last year, Millennials are the largest population block in America. The Pew Research Center defines Millennials as those Americans born from 1981 to 1997. Instead of being giddy about this juggernaut of consumers, industry analysts seem impatient and disappointed. “In the case of real estate, the millennial buying frenzy was already supposed to have kicked off – but it’s now on hold for a variety of reasons,” said Jeff Desjardins of Visual Capitalist.
What does he mean by “supposed to have kicked off”? As reported by the NAR this year, Millennials comprise the largest share of home buyers – and have been for the past four years! So why the seemingly weary-from-waiting attitude from market analysts?
Because of analysts’ great expectations. Millennials outnumber the vaunted numbers of the Baby Boomers. Analysts were expecting a tsunami and are getting only a tidal change.
But credit where credit is due. The Millennials have had to surmount more roadblocks to homeownership than any generation of Americans this side of World War II! The challenges include:
Despite this, experts still are predicting an incredible year of Millennial home buying in 2017. For starters, building permits for new construction have been topping a million per year since 2014 – the best numbers since 2007 and double the building permits of 2009! Also, Millennials are exploring alternatives, creating the so-called “Tiny House Movement.”
The fact that Millennials make up the greatest share of home buyers – for the fourth year in a row - says it all. Obviously, Millennials are surmounting their challenges! Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Remember these wise words. “Just because you took longer doesn’t mean you failed.”
According to this year’s The Real Weddings Study by The Knot, the average engagement ring in this country costs about $6,163. That’s up from $5,095 in 2011.
Who could spend $6,000 for this “average” ring? The real question is this: Why spend money on a diamond ring in the first place?
Diamonds Are Forever, But Not That Savvy
Diamonds are not a good investment. Like most retail items, diamonds lose half their value the moment you walk out of the store (unless you buy bonded diamonds). Don’t believe me, just try to re-sell your diamond later.
Diamonds are out! Welcome the Moissanite stone – because an engagement ring made of Moissanite could help pay your honeymoon!
According to an article on CNBC.com, Millennials are increasingly turning to substitutes, like lab-grown diamonds and sapphires. Colorless “white sapphires” can make a good diamond substitute. Actually, rubies and sapphires are both corundum crystals; rubies and sapphires just have different coloring elements.
A white sapphire from The Natural Sapphire Company can be more than 80 percent cheaper than a diamond of the same size and cut! But a gemologist would quickly tell you that – among other things – sapphires will sparkle less than diamonds.
So, what’s more sparkle worth to you?
But what if I told you that there’s a stone that costs less than sapphires, is more brilliant than a diamond, and whose price difference could pay for your reception hall?
Say “I Love You” With Moissanite.
Geologically, Moissanite is silicon carbide and seldom occurs naturally. But lab grown Moissanite rates about 9.25 on the Mohs scale - almost as hard as diamonds. Moissanite is so similar that a jeweler’s electronic diamond tester will register Moissanite as a diamond!
Last year, CBSNews.com reported that a Kay Jewelers store was accused of stealing diamonds off a client’s ring and substituting Moissanites – a clever fraud given that the two stones are so hard to tell apart.
Moissanite vs. Diamond
Moissanite also has a higher refractive index (“sparkle”) and dispersion (“fire”) than diamonds. Translation: unlike white sapphires, Moissanite stones sparkle more brilliantly than diamonds!
What does this mean for you? A Charles & Colvard Forever One Moissanite - round, one-carat, and colorless (or “D” on the GIA Diamond scale) - sells for about $600. On the website of Helzberg Diamonds, I found a round, one-carat, slightly included, colorless (“D”) diamond for $7,000!
We're talking about a stone that anybody - including a jeweler, your mother-in-law, or even the snobbiest of "frenemies" - will think is a diamond. But at a fraction of the cost. A wedding ring that saves you enough for a honeymoon or the wiser investment of a home down-payment.
Of course, couples should decide this together. But a Moissanite engagement ring would save you thousands! That extra money could help pay for the wedding, the honeymoon, or…help put a down payment on a house.
Diamonds might be forever, but Moissanite stones are ingenious. Thank you, science!
By H. Shive
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Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.