Home' Capricornus Quarterly : CQ July 2015 Contents 10
Just before the end of term at the
Middle and Senior School Assembly,
I spoke about something called the
Stanford Marshmallow Test, which was
originally conducted by psychologist
Walter Mischel in the late 1960s
and has since become a touch stone
of development al psychology.
The test goes like this: Children at
Stanford University’s Bing Nurser y
School, aged four to six, were placed
in a room furnished only with a table
and chair. A single treat, selected by
the child, was placed on the table. Each
child was told if he or she waited for 15
minutes before eating the treat, they
would be given a second treat. Then
they were left alone in the room.
Follow-up studies with the children,
later in adolescence and then in their
forties, showed a correlation between
an ability to wait long enough to obtain
a second treat and various forms of life
success and higher levels of brain activity
particularly in the area that regulates
our thoughts, actions and emotions.
This finding strikes me as particularly
important because of the research
that has emerged over the last two
decades on the critical role played by
the prefrontal cortex in directing our
attention and managing our minds.
As adolescences and adults we face
versions of the marshmallow test nearly
every waking minute of every day. We
may not be tempted by treats but our
internet browser, phones, tablets and
laptops – all the devices that connect
us to information – do to us what
marshmallows do to prep students.
Sweat treats can tempt us and lead
to unhealthy eating habits because
the way in which we live today is so
vastly different from the environment
in which we evolved as a species.
Early humans lived in a food-
deficient world. A piece of fruit, for
example, was both rare and valuable.
Our brains therefore developed a
response mechanism to these treats
that reflected their value – a surge
of interest and excitement, a feeling
of reward and satisfaction – which
we find ver y pleasurable. As we have
reshaped the world around us, though,
radically diminishing the cost and
effort involved in obtaining food, we
still have the same brains that evolved
thousands of years ago. It is this
mismatch that is at the heart of why so
many of us struggle to resist tempting
foods that we know we should not eat.
A similar process is at work in
our response to information. Our
formative environment as a species
was information-deficient as well as
food-deficient. New information, in the
form of new community members or
new ways of interacting, wa s unusual
and notable and typically signified
something of great importance. Just
as our brains developed a response
mechanism that valued treats, we also
evolved to pay close attention to new
information about the people around
us and our interactions with them.
Just as development of agriculture
and logistics have profoundly altered
We need to be more thoughtful
about our consumption
of information writes
Headmaster Dr Phillip Moulds
When I was little my parents noticed
I had a small learning disability,
like dyslexia, which affected my
reading and w riting skills.
In Year 1 my reading ability was a
few years below my age standard and
I had a really hard time spelling and
w riting. To be honest I hated to read.
Head of Primary, Mr Hadwen,
told me he wanted me to attend the
Before School Reading Programme.
I was less than impressed. In spite
of the hissy fit I threw I still went
and read to the teachers and high
school students most mornings.
After a while my reading age was up
to average. I’m now about a B student
in English after starting with D’s.
I know I owe that entirely to reading.
In Year 8 I started to really enjoy
reading and would read a novel or
two a week. My English skills just
kept on getting better and better.
When I was told senior students could
volunteer to help in the Before School
Reading Programme I was so excited. I
try to get there as often as I can to help
out the little ones. I remember reading
the same books the children are
reading to me now and it makes me feel
proud to know I am giving something
back. Simply reading one chapter
a day can be immensely helpful.
The Before School Reading Programme runs
Monday to Friday and has the support of
approximately 70 Senior students and North
Rockhampton Rotary volunteers. About 30 Primary
children participated in the programme in Term 2.
Picture: Year 11 student Amelia Wust and Kai
Williams, Year 3, have fun reading together.
ever y day
is the key
AMELIA WUST, YEAR 11
Insert a blurb here about the reading programme
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