Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

Scarcity lowers IQ and self-control

Having read the article below, which is adapted from the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, I was struck by several points. For one, it is amazing how much scarcity affects our decisions and actions, on a level we don’t even notice.  But more importantly, the effect scarcity has on IQ and self-control sheds new light on the plight of the poor.  If you don’t have time to read the whole book, makes sure you read these articles highlighting different aspects of the book: Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much and Scarcity changes how we think.

If you are really pressed for time, below is an excerpt from the first article:

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much (excerpts)


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December 31, 2013 Posted by | behaviour, decision making, economics, psychology | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Self-control may not equate success

From the January-February 2013 issue of Discover Magazine

Why Kids Make Rash Decisions

Contrary to popular psychological theory, self-control may not equate success.

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April 13, 2013 Posted by | behaviour, decision making, psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

How to Avoid the Temptations of Immediate Gratification

Recent research linked  impulsivity with a lack of future thinking. Want to avoid a temptation? Focus on imagining a concrete, un-fuzzy future with positive attributes instead.  From Scientific American, January 15, 2013:

How to Avoid the Temptations of Immediate Gratification

Neuroscience hints at the power of imagining the future

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January 19, 2013 Posted by | behaviour, brain, neuroeconomics, neuroscience, psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Improve your willpower

Self-control is like a muscle that can be strengthened over time.  Sounds like the book by Baumeister and Tierney would be quite useful.  From Canadian Business, September 26, 2011:

A lack of willpower means it’s time to exercise your mind

By Jacqueline Nelson  | September 08, 2011

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October 10, 2011 Posted by | behaviour, brain, psychology | , | 1 Comment

Self-Restraint Leads Us to Prefer Aggression

This might explain the origin of the term “skinny bitches” 😉

Self-Restraint Leads Us to Prefer Aggression

Research shows that when we practice self-restraint, we also tend to prefer aggressive messaging and movies. Christie Nicholson reports

| Sunday, March 20, 2011 |

March 24, 2011 Posted by | behaviour, psychology | , , | Leave a comment

The economics of self-control

Buying willpower?  Looks like it can be done…

From Globe and Mail’s Report on Business:

The economics of self-control

There’s no better motivator for reaching a goal than the prospect of losing money if you don’t. And these days, it’s never been easier to outsource your willpower

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September 15, 2010 Posted by | behaviour, economics, neuroeconomics | , | Leave a comment

Secrets of self-control

Whether it’s weight loss or anything else that requires self-control, the article below explains the key to success: avoidance, distraction and reframing.  A must read.

From the Globe and Mail, January 1, 2008:

Losing weight: the secrets of self-control


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September 16, 2009 Posted by | behaviour, decision making, diet, health, nutrition | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Delay gratification to succeed

The better you are at delaying gratification, the more successful you are. And it looks like you may be able to learn it.

From the New Yorker:


The secret of self-control.

by Jonah Lehrer

May 18, 2009

Children who are able to pass the marshmallow test enjoy greater success as adults.

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May 12, 2009 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment