In this brilliant book, Walter Mischel surveys the current state of knowledge on mastery of self control. It is a profoundly optimistic book that argues that the ability to delay immediate gratification for the sake of future rewards is an acquirable cognitive skill.
This is hardly an obvious conclusion: the marshmallow test itself is a now famous experiment which presented pre-schoolers with a choice between a single marshmallow on demand, or two marshmallows if they could delay eating the first one for 20 minutes.
The test turned out to correlate with SAT scores, social and cognitive functioning, and sense of self worth.
Mischel finds self control essential for developing the restraint and empathy for building caring and mutually supportive relationships. He calls it a “master aptitude” for a fulfilling life, associated with the qualities of optimism and self-affirmation in the face of difficult personal experiences. But he also understands the dangers of over-confidence that sometime lead highly successful professionals to take on excessive risk.
In short, its a book that anyone can relate to aspects of his or her own life, while gaining a deeper understanding of how our minds work.
About the author, from Amazon.com:
Walter Mischel holds the Robert Johnston Niven chair as professor of humane letters in psychology at Columbia University. He is the author of more than two hundred scientific papers as well as the coauthor of Introduction to Personality, now in its eighth edition. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has won the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of APA and the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology. He lives in New York.
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