2014 Tanner Lecture will feature:
Prof. Walter Mischel (Columbia University)
"Overcoming the Weakness of the Will"
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 4 pm
The most sincere resolutions to exert willpower—to diet, stop smoking, control anger—too often turn into failed good intentions. Beginning decades ago with Mischel’s “marshmallow test” experiments on delay of gratification with preschoolers, this lecture unpacks the conditions that enable self-control, and the basic cognitive and brain mechanisms that underlie resistance to temptation and the regulation of emotions. Mischel examines the implications of these discoveries for mastering self-control in everyday life, public policy, and the conception of human nature.
About the Speaker
Walter Mischel was born in Vienna, Austria. After the take-over by the Nazis in 1938, he escaped to the United States as a young child with his family. He has a B.A. from New York University, an MA in clinical psychology from the City College of New York, and a PhD in clinical psychology from Ohio State University. He taught briefly at the University of Colorado, at Harvard from 1958 to 1962, and then served for 21 years as a professor and chair at Stanford University. Since 1983 he has been at Columbia University, where he holds the Robert Johnston Niven chair as Professor of Humane Letters in Psychology.
Mischel is internationally known as the creator of the “Marshmallow Test,” one of the most famous and important experiments in the history of psychology. His experiments, begun with preschool children at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School in the late 1960s, opened the way for the modern scientific analysis of the cognitive mechanisms that enable delay of gratification and self-control beginning early in life. His work has yielded surprisingly strong predictions for consequential health and well-being outcomes over the life course, while also illuminating the underlying processes and cognitive skills essential for “willpower.”
Mischel’s work has transformed thinking in his field and shaped much of the modern agenda in the study of individual differences in social behavior and self-control. The July/August 2002 American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology lists the 99 most “Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century” based on a published study of citations, awards, impact on the science, and so on. In the group currently living, Mischel is ranked as the third highest. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, and became a Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991. He received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 1982; the Distinguished Scientist Award, Society of Experimental Social Psychologists in 2000; and the Distinguished Scientist Award, American Psychological Association, Division of Clinical Psychology in 1978. His many prizes include the Ludwig Wittgenstein Prize (2012) and the Grawemeyer Award for the “best idea” in the science of psychology (2011).
Michigan is one of nine institutions world-wide that hosts an annual Tanner Lecture on Human Values. Tanner Lectures are funded through the generosity of the late Professor of Philosophy, industrialist, and philanthropist, Obert Clark Tanner, and his wife, Grace Tanner. Professor Tanner wrote:
I hope these lectures will contribute to the intellectual and moral life of mankind. I see them simply as a search for a better understanding of human behavior and human values. This understanding may be pursued for its own intrinsic worth, but it may also eventually have practical consequences for the quality of personal and social life.
Although the Tanners established the supporting endowment in 1978, Joel Feinberg's April, 1977 lecture at Michigan inaugurated the international series of Tanner Lectures.
Each year, Michigan has a Tanner Lecture combined with an interdisciplinary symposium to which we invite distinguished scholars from around the world. The complete list of Tanner Lecture Programs at Michigan is available here.