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English Detective #10, April 9,2013. Explaining Willpower: research on self-control.
April 09, 2013
Your First Clue: Vocabulary we’ll Emphasize in this Issue
acknowledge, arbitrary, equivalent, framework, grade, initial, instructed, odd, outcomes, participants, presume, primary principle, promotes, register, relevant, restore, status, subsequently, voluntary
If you already know most of the words, work on the ones you aren’t so sure of, or enjoy the readings and take a break from intensive study this week. There will be a whole different group in the new newsletter.
Word Detective: ‘will’
We use the word ‘will’ in several very different ways. It is a modal verb to show the future: “The next issue of this newsletter will be about business management.” ‘Will’ is also a noun expressing a person’s desire, intention, or determination. Jesus spoke a lot about the will of God, and said he came not to do his own will (what he wanted to do) but the will of God. ‘A will’ is also a legal document stating how a person wants his property to be divided after he dies.
‘Will power’ is a person’s ability to choose to deny some strong desire or impulse in favor of a greater goal. It enables someone to study hard instead of going to a party, to do an unpleasant job to take care of his or her family, to refuse a piece of chocolate cake that looks so good right now in order to look or feel better later. (We also call these choices ‘deferred gratification.’)
The articles and video in this issue discuss what scientists have learned about willpower: the mental mechanisms that enable people to postpone what they want now for the sake of future good.
Here's the TED video. It discusses the long-term results of experiments using marshmallows (a soft candy) to test how much willpower different children had.
Here is a very different perspective on the marshmallow experiments.
Right-click here to download a crossword practicing brain research vocabulary from this issue and the last one. The answers are here.
The following New York Times’ article talks about how willpower research reveals practical ways to increase our willpower.
There are probably some words you won’t recognize in this reading. You can guess many of them, like boost (to increase), from the context. I’d like to explain one short section I think may be hard to guess.
In paragraphs 5 and 6 it talks about how researchers asked participants to suppress or stifle their reactions. This means they should not show how they felt. (Suppress and stifle both mean to stop or prevent something.) That depleted, or used up, their power to control themselves. They did not have the mental energy left to focus properly on the test. The article goes on to say that bringing blood sugar levels back to normal also restored self-control.
> Here’s the article.
Test your Deductions
Click here for the quiz and answers.
Coming in the next issue, April 23: Business Management.
In case you missed these: Earlier issues of English Detective have articles on a number of topics, plus practice with over 200 words from the Academic Word List. You can check them out with the link to the back issues page below (or find what words were practiced each issue here.
P.S. If you’re not already getting English Detective, you can subscribe by completing the form here. (It's free!)
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