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That Explains the Ice Cream and Beer August 11, 2014

Posted by geoff in News.

Cool (but old) column on the way willpower and mental work tap the same finite resource in your brain, so you can’t think deeply and exercise self-control at the same time.

In 1999, Professor Baba Shiv (currently at Stanford) and his co-author Alex Fedorikhin did a simple experiment on 165 grad students.They asked half to memorize a seven-digit number and the other half to memorize a two-digit number. After completing the memorization task, participants were told the experiment was over, and then offered a snack choice of either chocolate cake or a fruit bowl.

The participants who memorized the seven-digit number were nearly 50% more likely than the other group to choose cake over fruit.

Researchers were astonished by a pile of experiments that led to one bizarre conclusion:

Willpower and cognitive processing draw from the same pool of resources.


1. Tushar - August 12, 2014

**Ignores both numbers. Eats fruit cake**

2. OBF - August 13, 2014

Seems like smart people should stay out of the kitchen when they are doing smart things.

Good. Leaves more room for dummies like me to make healthy food choices. (I did come up with a reasonable way to juice kale and not barf when drinking it.)

3. Pupster - August 13, 2014

4. wiserbud - August 14, 2014

or, yannow, maybe they just preferred cake.

This assumption that smart people will ALWAYS choose the “healthier” option when offered is silly.

5. lauraw - August 14, 2014

This explains all the goddamn ice cream and chocolate I ate last semester.

6. geoff - August 14, 2014

Apparently as I get older I’m thinking more and more.

7. lauraw - August 14, 2014

And retaining more, too.

*buys new pants*

8. drketedc - August 18, 2014

I’d like to see the rest of the ‘pile of experiments’ because there are too many assumptions made here to reach this odd conclusion. If there is mental exertion going on, I could see how one may just make an instinctive choice from the treats offered, but what does that have to do with self control? Maybe the apples were mushy and nasty and the cake was nice.

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