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  • Thank you that was too kind of an introduction indeed I do study grit

  • and when Nancy gave me just one degree of freedom and said I could talk about

  • what I wanted to I decided not to talk about grit because nobody ever

  • asks me to come talk about

  • self control but indeed by the grant numbers and by the number people our

  • lab works more

  • on self control than it does on grit so

  • the slides are yes the slides are there

  • okay great so I wanna say that I made this quote up

  • in deference to a former APS President Walter Mischel I believe I emailed him one

  • day and I said

  • Walter can I say that you said that the most important scientific discovery

  • about self control

  • in that it can be taught and he wrote back sure

  • I think this is a relatively accurate statement of what Walter does believe

  • I'm of course the popular public knows now his a

  • his marshmallow test which has been on the Colbert report no fewer than three times

  • if you add it all up and I think that

  • that in some ways the predictive power of the marshmallow test

  • belies in a sense the most important insight from Walters decades

  • of research which is that

  • in observing these young children wait for two marshmallows

  • instead of one they employed an array

  • of ingenious strategies in order to delay longer

  • and Walter's strong belief was that those strategies could be

  • directly taught and practiced

  • in my own work on self-control I I beg borrow steal

  • I collaborate with whomever I can and about four years ago I met

  • the incomparable James Gross and I'm guessing that about half of you are

  • currently writing a paper with him

  • even at this moment because

  • because eventually everybody works with James Gross but what really struck me about him

  • was that he was able to bring together so many disparate findings

  • in self regulation now many of you know that James primarily works on grownups

  • and he primarily works on a emotion regulation

  • but the model that he's developed in that realm I think has implications for

  • unifying

  • more broadly what we would consider self-regulation or self control

  • the process model says that impulses develop

  • so they began perhaps quite weak and then

  • gather strength and it is by intervening

  • in the process of impulse generation earlier

  • rather than later then we can be really smart about how to exercise self control

  • in our lives so I'll just take you through from situation selection

  • which is the earliest stage at which you can intervene all the way through to

  • response modulation

  • what I mean and let me illustrate with some data that James in our lab

  • collected recently from a local high school where we presented to

  • students from ninth through twelfth grade a variety of examples

  • of each of the 5 stages in the process model which I'll described to you

  • one by one but I'll just say that when high school students read examples of

  • modifying their situation verses

  • using attention in a strategic way verses

  • cognitively changing the way they think about things the striking finding is that

  • students tell us that to choose your situation

  • or change your situation in ways that are very intentional

  • that's actually probably going to be much more effective than any of the later

  • cognitive strategies so this indeed is the

  • prediction of the process model that intervening earlier should be better

  • than interviewing later

  • I will say that we would have loved for the same students to tell us that

  • each of the subsequent cognitive strategies would just be a little bit

  • less effective

  • but data never cooperate exactly so I think the gist of it is that the

  • students have an intuition that intervening early

  • is better than intervening later now the first

  • thing that one can do according to James and the process model

  • is to choose your situation to choose where to be

  • what what do I mean by that for example

  • all the undergraduates who work in my lab tak an oath

  • that says that they will sit at the front

  • of the classroom the first three rows specifically

  • and I always get the same question oh do you mean in your class

  • no I don't mean in my class I mean in all of your classes

  • do you mean in the psychology classes

  • no I mean every single lecture that you attend course they want an explanation for this

  • and the explanation is that when I was in college

  • taking a class on ancient Chinese bronzes

  • I could do nothing more than just to sit in the front of the class to prevent

  • myself from

  • falling asleep for the entire lecture sitting in the front of the class

  • is putting myself in a situation where social norms and pure shame

  • would be working to my advantage to keep my attention on what I needed to do as

  • opposed to something I'd rather be doing napping

  • you know reading you know anything else verses the

  • the sort of the you know the nosebleed section so you can do things like

  • choose your physical situation you can also choose to some extent your social situation

  • recently we did a focus group of tenth and fifth-graders

  • at a school in New York City a tough neighborhood schools were 100 percent

  • free and reduced-price lunch

  • and I listened to a tenth-grader sagely

  • advised the fifth-grader if I only knew when I was your

  • age what I know now I would have picked my friends differently

  • because I got into the wrong crowd and you never can tell

  • yourself how much your friends are really going to influence you

  • so there's selecting your physical situation to advantage

  • going to the library instead of studying in a noisy house

  • choosing to sit at the front of the class verses the back to class

  • and you can choose your social situation to some extent

  • we think that these are intuitive to students who for example in the same

  • dataset that I mentioned to you before would

  • when asked about you know what tell us about self-control in your own life

  • and tell us a story about you had you know something that you had to

  • resist as a temptation what you did

  • I'll just read two verbatim suggestions of students

  • who in this open-ended prompt gave us things that we classified as being situation

  • selection so I would go to the library

  • as being in a quiet and controlled environment would make me focus

  • I would lock myself in a room without my phone

  • so that it does not become a distraction now

  • many students do not have the liberty

  • or the logistical possibility of changing

  • where they are and so we think that it's also important that they learned to

  • modify their situation

  • and that is to say once choosing where you are

  • or having it foisted upon you you can certainly change physical aspects of the situation

  • now Brian Wansink at Cornell University has a large number studies

  • that have shown that physical cues like is the glass a tall glass or short class

  • is the soup bowl a big bowl or small bowl

  • can dramatically influence eating behavior

  • and this is an example we think of situation modification if it's not

  • Brian Wansink determining the size of your soup bowl

  • but you know determining the size of your soup bowl so we feel like this

  • insight that physical cues matter can be harnessed by the individual to say

  • I'm going to keep the cookies in my house in a cookie jar

  • I can't see through unlike the cookie jar in my house

  • which like most cookie jars is clear and tempts me every time I walk by

  • in terms of students and academic success which is really where my heart is

  • there is the simple modification

  • of closing the laptop while you're sitting in lecture

  • on the left you have the typical scene of students with their laptops

  • open you know on ebay

  • checking their email accounts

  • you know I told my husband that this was generally true of professors who are

  • lecturing in large classes but not

  • not in my class where everybody was really just taking notes

  • and paying rapt attention to me so he

  • went to my class and sat in the back row and took a picture

  • of my class and then pointed out to me that one

  • intrepid student was actually watching a full-length feature

  • film during the hour and twenty-minute lecture which I thought was

  • particularly humiliating

  • I don't know for the student or for me but anyway it wasn't good so

  • you know minor this is of course only if you as a student have a conflict

  • you both wanna go onto Instagram and listen to doctor Duckworth tell you

  • what's on the final exam

  • and if you feel that listening to what's going to be on the final exam is

  • in the long run probably a better use of your time and yet you're pulled

  • by Instagram that's classic self-control conflict and this minor situational

  • adjustment can actually just make it that much easier

  • here are some verbatim suggestions of high school students quote I would shut

  • off my phone and put it under my pillow so I wouldn't be tempted

  • by to touch it quote I would ask my mom to take away my phone and other

  • distractions to make sure I can get it done

  • on time now I won't play this clip I'll just

  • you know fast forward but I'll just say that and we've been very inspired by

  • the behavior change work of folks like Carol Dweck and her

  • kind of extended family her progeny folks like Greg Walton and David Yeager

  • who have shown that in very carefully crafted brief

  • online interventions you can have you know reasonably large effects

  • on on behavior change so so we picked up a bunch of tips from them and we

  • we took the Brian Wansink Research and we created an intervention we

  • taught kids

  • how to modify their situations and I'll try to skip through the actual video we

  • tried to make it cool

  • and fun and in a one-week longitudinal field study with high school students

  • at baseline students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions

  • they learned about situation modification they learned about a later

  • strategy

  • response modulation just kinda good old-fashioned willpower don't do it

  • and then finally a no treatment control condition

  • now at baseline in addition to getting

  • these you know treatment assignments students

  • set an academic goal which they then one week later were asked to report on

  • and in this data you can see that self-reported goal accomplishment was

  • higher in the situation modification group

  • than either of the two comparison groups we replicated this with a large sample

  • of college students again those who were

  • given information about how they can use situation modification to meet their

  • academic goals

  • did better in doing so than two comparisons

  • and importantly we found what we hypothesized which is partial mediation

  • well we would have loved full mediation but but mediation to some extent by

  • self-reported temptation during that

  • week in other words students who learned to

  • turn off their cellphones put away their laptops when they're trying to read a

  • book et cetera

  • felt fewer feelings

  • of temptation towards those other objects and that at least partially

  • explained

  • the effect of the intervention on goal accomplishment now I should say a word

  • about these latter three strategies but I'll be more brief because

  • James and I don't believe that they're as effective as these you know earlier

  • upstream situational strategies

  • so first there is selectively attending looking at things in

  • in ways that you think will make it easier to do the right thing

  • and harder to do the wrong one so for example

  • at the KIPP charter schools and there are many of them in New York but they're now

  • all over the country

  • they have recognized from fairly early in their

  • in their establishment of these schools probably ten or fifteen years ago

  • they recognized that you know for sure it's hard to pay attention to your

  • teacher it's hard to just look at your teacher when you'd rather look elsewhere

  • but they also recognize that by looking at your teacher

  • and I'll give you an example this is a KIPP classroom

  • they're all looking at the teacher at KIPP they call tracking

  • it's tracking the teacher

  • that by accomplishing that you then make it easier to do what's even harder

  • which is to truly

  • you know listen and encode and engage with the academic material

  • in other words you can look out the window if you want to and then it's

  • going to be darn near impossible

  • to pay attention at all or to process the the history lesson

  • or you can track the speaker which they do it KIPP schools

  • and that facilitates you know downstream regulation of the things that you need to do

  • so selectively attending what does it look like when high school students

  • explain they can

  • you know not look at their phone ignore my phone rang or they can

  • direct their internal attention to things that are more useful in terms of regulation

  • remind myself that even the most boring classes

  • count towards my GPA I will note that

  • even though in Walter Mischel 's early studies of the marshmallow

  • students I guess I should say four-year-olds they're not students yet

  • children

  • who selectively look you know

  • at or you know objects are not the marshmallow are able to wait longer

  • so selective attention strategic attention emerged as one the most

  • important strategies in those early preschool studies

  • notably this was the least commonly nominated strategy among

  • among high school students that we surveyed which we haven't quite figured

  • out why but we know

  • the disparity now what do you do once you've

  • chosen where you're going to be modified the situation or not

  • attended to what you've decided to attend to you can of course

  • change your mind you can re-frame

  • or change the cognitive representation of the situation

  • there are many ways to do this but one very important way relevant to self

  • control self-regulation is reconstruing

  • the distance of the situation psychological distancing so in one

  • random assignment study in collaboration with you Ethan Cross

  • kids in fifth grade were either chosen to

  • replay an event of an