On Cookies, Radishes and Self Control

This week’s book learning draws inspiration from ‘Switch’ by Dan and Chip Heath.

A group of hungry student volunteers were led to a room that smelt of chocolate chip cookies.
There were 2 bowls – one with cookies and the other with radishes.

Half the group were asked to eat from the cookie bowl and not touch the radishes. The other half had to do the opposite. Researchers left the room for 10 minutes to bring about temptation and studied the situation with hidden cameras. They found that, despite looking longingly at the cookies bowl, the radish eaters stuck to their word – that was will power at work!

A couple of hours later, they were called for a second ‘unrelated’ study about problem solving and given complicated unsolvable puzzles. And the results were telling.

The cookie group i.e. the untempted students spent, on average, 19 mins on the task making 34 attempts. The Radish group, on the other hand, gave up in 8 mins, after 19 attempts on average.

Self control, as this experiment dictates, is exhaustible . Exercising it is like doing bench presses at the gym – the first one is easy and then it gets progressively difficult.

This story is a wonderful example of how fighting the elephant is a very tiring process for the rider. I think the big question here is – Are we wise in our use of our exhaustible self control every day?

Happy week, all!