How Much of Your Life Do You Actually Control? (NSQ Ep. 15)
Also: why do we procrastinate?
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Relevant Research & References
Question #1: Do you shape your world, or does your world shape you?
- Stephen says that his question about locus of control is inspired by author and journalist Maria Konnikova’s new book, The Biggest Bluff. Stephen speaks with Konnikova about this book in Freakonomics Radio Ep. 424, “How to Make Your Own Luck.”
- The idea of locus of control was first introduced by psychologist Julian Rotter in his 1966 paper, “Generalized Expectancies for Internal Versus External Control of Reinforcement.”
- Angela says that she has not found negative correlations with traits like growth mindset or self-efficacy. You can read more about Angela’s research on these concepts at the Character Lab website.
- Angela explains that the theory of behaviorism — and the corresponding work by scholars like Harvard’s B.F. Skinner — dominated the field of psychology in the early twentieth century. Skinner outlined his ideas about behaviorism in his 1938 book The Behavior of Organisms.
- Angela notes that Julian Rotter and Albert Bandura disrupted the theory of behaviorism with contrasting psychological research on concepts like self-efficacy. Bandura is the author of several books that explore the significance of self-efficacy, including Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control and Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory.
- Angela references her collaboration with N.Y.U. psychologist Gabriele Oettingen on several papers on goal implementation: “From Fantasy to Action: Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) Improves Academic Performance in Children,” “Self-Regulation Strategies Improve Self-Discipline in Adolescents: Benefits of Mental Contrasting and Implementation Intentions,” and “Mental Contrasting Facilitates Academic Performance in School Children.”
- Angela discusses the work of Turkish economist Sule Alan and her 2016 study on the effects of teaching grit to elementary school students in Istanbul.
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Question #2: How do you stop procrastinating?
- Angela says that some argue that procrastination has to do with failures to delay gratification, and she references psychologist Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow test. You can read a full account of the experiment in Mischel’s 2014 book The Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self-Control and How to Master It.
- Stephen recalls that psychologist Adam Grant has written about some of the upsides to procrastination. Grant explores how many top achievers succeed as procrastinators in his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World.
- Stephen and Angela discuss the Zeigarnick effect, a psychological phenomenon identified by Russian psychiatrist and psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik.
- Angela references a study by psychologist Albert Bandura that investigated whether subgoals were effective in helping elementary school students learn math. Bandura collaborated on this study with educational psychologist Dale H. Schunk. Their 1981 paper is titled “Cultivating Competence, Self-Efficacy, and Intrinsic Interest Through Proximal Self-Motivation.”