In Memoriam: Walter Mischel, Psychologist Who Developed Pioneering Marshmallow Test

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear colleague Walter Mischel on September 12, 2018. He was the Robert Johnston Niven Professor Emeritus of Humane Letters.

Professor Mischel is revered for his work in self-regulation. He is the author of the popular book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control. In it, he describes his groundbreaking studies of young children in the 1960s and 1970s, during which they were given the choice between receiving one immediate treat and receiving two treats 15 minutes later. The tactics used by the youngsters to distract themselves had implications for delayed gratification in adults. For example, when faced with the urge to smoke or a choice between arguing versus compromise, Mischel recommended keeping a goal in mind and focusing on the consequences of losing self-control.

Mischel was born in Vienna but left with his family in 1938 in response to the Nazi annexation of Austria. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he attended New York University (B.A. in psychology) and City College of New York (M.A. in clinical psychology). He then went on to receive his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The Ohio State University in 1956. Mischel served on the faculty at the University of Colorado, Harvard University, Stanford University and Columbia University in the City of New York.

“Walter was a living legend in psychology yet a humble mentor and colleague. We will miss him dearly.” said Carl Hart, chair of Department of Psychology and the Ziff Professor of Psychology (In Psychiatry).

Mischel is survived by his partner, Michele Tolela Myers; daughters, Judy, Rebecca and Linda; and his grandchildren. Donations in memory of Walter Mischel can be directed to the Celiac Disease Center

Professor Mischel was recently invited to speak in this year’s colloquium series. Below is his email sent in response to the invitation. In it, he points to a mechanism for highlighting his work. The link to which he referred is listed below.

” …I don’t do … formal talks any more. Maybe show the APS Video interview, In the Psychologist’s Studio (its at least one hour) and then discuss it further with questions from Nim, Valerie, students etc.?

In 2020, if alive, I turn 90. Might be fun then :-).

I really appreciate your interest.”

Inside the Psychologist’s Studio with Walter Mischel. Recorded at the International Convention of Psychological Science, March 24, 2017, Vienna, Austria.

— Department of Psychology

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