The Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self-control and How To Master It

  • Walter Mischel
Bantam (2014) 9780593071311 | ISBN: 978-0-5930-7131-1

In our go-faster era, extreme impulsivity — from trolling to air rage — seems to be on the rise. So it is an apt moment for psychologist Walter Mischel to recap his much-cited “marshmallow test”, which examines children's capacity for delaying gratification as an indicator of emotional balance in maturity. Mischel takes us beyond the experiment into deep research on “delay ability”, his formulation of “hot” and “cool” cognition, speculation on the role of genetics, and the implications of his work for public policy.

On Immunity: An Inoculation

  • Eula Biss
Graywolf (2014) 9781555976897 | ISBN: 978-1-5559-7689-7

Our long and intimate coexistence with viruses is less battle than balancing act, avers essayist Eula Biss. In this quietly impassioned call for responsible childhood immunization, Biss explores the currents of humanity's uneasy relationship with these microscopic hordes, interweaving science, myth and history with her own fraught parental experience. The word inoculate was originally used to describe plant grafting, she notes. Now, it signifies grafting disease “to the rootstock of the body”. As Biss reminds us, immunization must be effectively communal, “a garden that we tend together”.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

  • Bessel van der Kolk
Viking Adult (2014) 9780670785933 | ISBN: 978-0-6707-8593-3

War zones may be nearer than you think, as the 25% of US citizens raised with alcoholic relatives might attest. Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk argues, moreover, that severe trauma is “encoded in the viscera” and demands tailored approaches that enable people to experience deep relief from rage and helplessness. In a narrative packed with decades of findings and case studies, he traces the evolution of treatments from the 'chemical coshes' of the 1970s to neurofeedback, mindfulness and other nuanced techniques.

The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu

  • Dan Jurafsky
W. W. Norton (2014) 9780393240832 | ISBN: 978-0-3932-4083-2

When Dan Jurafsky enters a restaurant, menu scribes beware: this linguist will pick at the wording even as he savours (or deplores) the dish. In his study probing how foods and their names co-evolved, Jurafsky crafts a gastronomic atlas. We discover how Peruvian ceviche and vinegary British fish and chips can be traced back to sikbāj, a sweet-and-sour stew from sixth-century Persia. We marvel at how a fermented-fish sauce from southern China is the progenitor of all-American ketchup. And we find an unexpected chemical connection between ice cream and fireworks. Deliciously erudite.

The Imaginary App

Edited by:
  • Paul D. Miller &
  • Svitlana Matviyenko
MIT Press (2014) 9780262027489 | ISBN: 978-0-2620-2748-9

Are mobile apps an “oscillator between the imaginary and the realised”, or “charming junkware”? Multimedia artist Paul D. Miller (also known as DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid) and media scholar Svitlana Matviyenko explore this vaporous realm with contributors including Björk collaborator Scott Snibbe. The theory-laced result is for the digital devotee, but the authors' apps, real and speculative, can be great fun; the optical illusion in Anna Munster's Transparent Screen app, for instance, allows you to “text and walk without fear”.