Natalie held post-doctoral fellowships in the Probability, Philosophy and Modeling group based at the University of Konstanz, and in the Philosophy Department at Duke University. Before joining King’s College London, she was a Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Her interests are in rationality, decision theory, moral psychology, experimental philosophy and collective intentions.
LB: The aim of your project is to explain self-control, defined as the capacity to resist a temptation in order to pursue a long-term goal. How did you become interested in self-control? What problems do you think a philosophical account of self-control should attempt to solve?
NG: "I've always been interested in the challenges posed by self-control for accounts of rational decision-making. As a graduate student I read a lot by both Jon Elster, for whom self-control is a recurring theme, and Walter Mischel, including but not limited to his famous experiments on self-control, where he observed children trying to exert self-control in the face of a tempting marshmallow. (It’s good to see that Mischel is finally publishing a popular book -- 'The Marshmallow Test', which I am reviewing for the Times Educational Supplement and thoroughly enjoying -- so hopefully his name will become as familiar outside of academia as his research.)
|The Marshmallow Test |
by Walter Mischel
I started working on self-control myself as a natural progression from two topics that I was working on: framing and levels of agency. In decision theory, it is usual to start with a problem that has already been “framed”, with the relevant features of outcomes picked out and evaluated. But there are all manner of ways of framing a problem, including different framings of the agent. Another thing I had been working on is team reasoning, or the idea that there are different modes of reasoning depending on whether an agent frames herself as an individual or as a part of a group. From there, it was a short step to conceiving of problems of self-control as a conflict between framing a problem from the perspective of me-now and framing it from the perspective of the self over time, with the self as a ‘team’ of timeslices.