By Professor Howard Rachlin
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Additional info for The Science of Self-Control
The next two chapters are essentially illustrations of this point. 3 represent the data that the cognitive psychologist uses to construct a theory. The psychologist manipulates and observes arrows 1, 2, and 3. From these manipulations and observations a cognitive system is hypothesized. The system consists of a set of internal operations and transformations, often a computer-like information processing system which, given inputs 1 and 3, would produce the observed behavioral output, 2. The system is tested by altering the inputs and pre- 24 The Science of Self-Control dicting new outputs.
Consider the following dilemma, which I frequently have to face. Several people are waiting for a crosstown bus in New York at eleven o’clock on a cold night. Empty taxis (which cost three times as much as the bus) cruise around the shivering group like sharks around a shipwreck. How long do you wait before giving up and hailing a taxi? It depends on when you estimate that the next bus will come. The bus here represents a larger-later reward (in the sense that its lesser fare subtracts less than the taxi fare from the reward of getting home).
But physiological and cognitive psychology have found nothing to replace the concept of the will as the source of our purposes in everyday life. Modern psychology has followed Descartes in pursuit of the how of behavior. Like Descartes, it has lost sight of the why. So we are as much at sea as we ever were when it comes to developing methods to bring our own behavior under control. Succeeding chapters will attempt to formulate a different approach, a Habit and Willpower 19 behavioral approach, to this problem.