Tag Archives: class privilege

It’s Not Just About Delaying Gratification

When talking about the psychology of success, one experiment that comes up pretty frequently is the marshmallow task. Children around 4 years old were placed in front of an edible treat of some sort, and told that if they could wait fifteen minutes without eating the treat in front of them, they would get a second treat. The children were observed and timed for how long they could go without eating the present treat, and about a third of them made it the whole fifteen minutes to the reward. The experiment was conceived to study self-control, but there have been several follow-up studies that seemed to indicate correlations between how long the children could hold out on the marshmallow task and their subsequent competence, SAT scores, and brain activity in regions related to control and addiction. In short, people often refer to the marshmallow task study to support claims that willpower at a young age predicts success later in life.

But the assumption there is that waiting is the optimal, if most difficult, strategy. Because sure, waiting for an additional reward could show self-control and the ability to look ahead, when the children think they can trust their environment. A new follow-up study explores this concept further:

While volunteering years ago at a homeless shelter for families in Santa Ana, Calif., [study author Celeste Kidd] realized that all the kids around her would eat their marshmallows straight away, living as they did in an environment where anything they had could be taken away at any time. “Delaying gratification is only the rational choice if the child believes a second marshmallow is likely to be delivered,” Kidd says.

Although previous marshmallow-type studies have acknowledged that external factors might influence kids’ ability to wait for the bigger reward, none had directly tested for those factors’ effects. So Kidd and her colleagues ran a study in which they manipulated the reliability of their young participants’ environment. A researcher gave children with an average age of four years some poor-quality art materials and told them if they could wait, she would return with better supplies. In a “reliable” condition, she did exactly that, but in an “unreliable” condition, she returned to explain she did not have any better materials after all. A marshmallow test followed. Those in the reliable condition lasted an average of 12 minutes, whereas those in the unreliable condition lasted only three.

So in fact, the marshmallow task isn’t necessarily a measure of willpower, but also a measure of environmental stability, which ties into socioeconomical status, parenting type, and many other things, and it may be these variables that are contributing to success later in life. Hopefully this message about the inherent classism of the earlier interpretations filters through to psychology popularizers as well as the scientific community.

The nearest linkspam may be behind you (29 January 2013)

  • How To Be Inclusive: “To create cultures of inclusion, you first have to make acts of inclusion. A culture of inclusion is about offering help before offering criticism. It’s about knowing that everyone’s circumstances are different, and understanding those circumstances before jumping to judgement or conclusions. It’s about teaching, it’s about learning, and it’s about knowing that you can learn from the same people you can teach.”
  • No More Objectification: “The widely-covered “Objectify a man in tech” day started out as a lark that emerged when I got fed up with experiencing — and seeing other women writers and presenters in gaming and tech — fielding irrelevant compliments on their appearance when people referenced their work.”
  • Women Don’t Need to “Lean In” More; Powerful Men Need to Reach Out: “But women in the US now represent the majority of college graduates, the majority of MAs and the majority of PhDs. How much harder do you want them to ‘lean in’?”
  • How do you edit Wikipedia?: “Wikipedia is seen as having a particular culture: valuing openness, cooperation and transparency, commited to the idea of “neutrality”, often adversarial and prone to edit wars and aggressive behaviour. I see myself as only partly fitting into this culture.”
  • Interdependence and Strong Female Characters: “As long as we insist that female characters can only be strong through total independence, we do both them and women in the real world a disservice. The real mark of strength isn’t in how much of a loner you can be, how much you can isolate yourself, but how you can strike a balance, maintaining your strength and integrity while being unafraid to build emotional connections with other people.”
  • A field guide to privilege in marine science: some reasons why we lack diversity: Scientists don’t always recognize the additional barrers, besides hard work, that prevent people from succeeding at science… Here, I present a short field guide to type of privilege that I’ve observed in science, and explain why becoming a scientist becomes immensely more difficult for people without that form of privilege.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Linkspam shattered on impact (19th September, 2011)

  • The GNOME Women’s Outreach Program is running paid internships (for women, and not only students) from December 12, 2011 through March 12, 2012. The application deadline is October 31.
  • Just 12% of CSIRO’s senior scientists women: While at entry level almost 50 per cent of post-doctorate graduates are female [at CSIRO, Australia's government research agency], just 12 per cent of senior specialists are women.
  • Women, swearing and the workplace: Since [Carol] Bartz’s very public departure from Yahoo last week, her penchant for blunt, profane language has become recurring themes in discussions of her career, driving conversation about what women can and can’t be in the workplace.
  • (Warning: self-harm and harassment mentioned.) Naming Names on the Internet: Three years ago… It required contributors to Web portals and other popular sites to use their real names, rather than pseudonyms… Last month, after a huge security breach, the government said it would abandon the system.
  • (Warning for sexual assault and denial.) Reddit Users Find New Way To Be Assholes. When a woman posted about her sexual assault on Reddit, she enraged doubters, who eventually convinced her to post video proof of the crime.
  • Introducing Ladydrawers: it’s the female-identified creators who aren’t being encouraged to submit [comics] work, aren’t being sought out and aren’t getting books turned into big movie deals. In comics and elsewhere, women creators of all sorts of media are starting to ask: Why? Ladydrawers, a new semimonthly comics collaboration, will look at a few possible reasons and impacts in comics form.
  • Across the digital divide: This doesn’t change the part where, every time a discussion of ebooks turns, seemingly inevitably, to Print is dead, traditional publishing is dead, all smart authors should be bailing to the brave new electronic frontier, what I hear, however unintentionally, is Poor people don’t deserve to read.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Male IT geeks tend to think they are “low status” males.

This post was originally published at Restructure!

Why are male IT geeks less successful in attracting women than other males, on average? Why are there few women in IT?

Among male geeks, a popular explanation for both these phenomena is that women avoid “low status” males, because women are programmed by evolution to have sex with men in exchange for men’s material resources.

the average person in the United States with an IT career makes $0.13. the average American household makes $0.096.

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If you were hacking since age 8, it means you were privileged.

This post was originally published at Restructure!

Often, computer geeks who started programming at a young age brag about it, as it is a source of geeky prestige. However, most computer geeks are oblivious to the fact that your parents being able to afford a computer back in the 1980s is a product of class privilege, not your innate geekiness. Additionally, the child’s gender affects how much the parents are willing to financially invest in the child’s computer education. If parents in the 1980s think that it is unlikely their eight-year-old daughter will have a career in technology, then purchasing a computer may seem like a frivolous expense.

Because of systemic racism, class differences correlate with racial demographics. In the Racialicious post Gaming Masculinity, Latoya quotes a researcher’s exchange with an African American male computer science (CS) undergraduate:

“Me and some of my black friends were talking about the other guys in CS. Some of them have been programming since they were eight. We can’t compete with that. Now, the only thing that I have been doing since I was eight is playing basketball. I would own them on the court. I mean it wouldn’t be fair, they would just stand there and I would dominate. It is sort of like that in CS.”
— Undergraduate CS Major

Those “other guys” in CS are those white, male geeks who brag in CS newsgroups about hacking away at their Commodore 64s as young children, where successive posters reveal younger and younger ages in order to trump the previous poster. This disgusting flaunting of privilege completely demoralizes those of us who gained computer access only recently. However, CS departments—which tend to be dominated by even more privileged computer geeks of an earlier era when computers were even rarer—also assume that early computer adoption is a meritocratic measure of innate interest and ability.

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