Walter Mischel's new book can be pre-ordered with the links above. It will be released in the US on September 23, 2014 and in the UK on September 25, 2014, with foreign translations following rapidly. It is also expected to become available on Amazon on September 23, 2014.
research interests focus on: a) personality
structure, process, and development, and b) self
regulation (aka willpower).
Professional Activities &
John P. McGovern Award Lecture in
Behavioral Sciences (2013), American Academy of
Arts and Sciences
Ludwig Wittgenstein Prize (2012),
Austrian Research Foundation
Grawemeyer Award in Psychology
Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa, Hebrew
University of Jerusalem (2010)
Scientific Honoree, Foundation for
the Advancement of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
President, Association for Psychological
National Academy of Sciences (elected 2004)
Merit Award, National Institute of Mental Health, 1989 up to 2009 (awarded twice, sequentially)
2005 Jack Block Award for Distinguished Contributions to Personality Psychology
President, Association for Research in Personality, 2002 - 2003 (elected)
Distinguished Scientist Award, Society of Experimental Social Psychologists (awarded in 2000)
Fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists (elected 1999)
Editor, Psychological Review, 2000-2003
Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa, Ohio State University, June 1997
Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (elected 1991)
Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, American Psychological Association, 1982
Distinguished Scientist Award, American Psychological Association, Division of Clinical Psychology, 1978
Current & Future
One of our long-term longitudinal studies examines the ways in which the ability to delay gratification, assessed in our laboratory situations in early childhood, predicts a variety of consequential developmental outcomes in the life course and serves as a protective factor against chronic vulnerabilities such as rejection sensitivity. This cohort began as preschoolers studied at the Bing Nursery School at Stanford University in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and we have been in contact with them ever since, tracing their development. Most recently, we began a home study with these individuals, focusing on their children who now are preschool age, to examine cross-generational links at both behavioral and biological levels, in collaboration with Ozlem Ayduk's laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley (Ayduk et al., 2000; Sethi et al., 2000). The other project began in the early 1980s at the Barnard Toddler Center in work with Lawrence Aber when these toddlers were studied in the classic maternal separation paradigm, and subsequently at age 4 years in the delay of gratification situation. Currently we are re-assessing them in young adulthood in studies that include cognitive, social, and, ultimately, fMRI measurement (Eigsti et al., 2005).
In related collaborative work we are exploring the psychological, physiological, brain, and genetic mechanisms that underlie adaptive self-control and emotion regulation under "hot" emotion-arousing conditions. We use a host of paradigms (e.g. longitudinal, diary, lab-based experimental, correlational) and methods (e.g. self-report, narratives, implicit, autonomic, fMRI) to address these questions (e.g., Kross et al., 2005), freely crossing disciplinary boundaries in areas that span personality, social, cognition, developmental, and cognitive neuroscience, with continuing support by NIMH Merit Awards (1989-2009).
Personality Processes and
A closely related line of inquiry, in conjunction with Yuichi Shoda and his lab at the University of Washington, is exploring the structure, consistency, and stability of personality, guided by the Cognitive-Affective Processing Model of personality (Mischel & Shoda, 1995; Mischel, 2004). This research is currently developing methods to identify the predictable situation-specific contingencies (e.g., she does X when A but Y when B) that constitute peoples distinctive, stable if...then..., situation-behavior signatures. It also identifies sub-types of individuals with similarities in these behavioral signatures and in the cognitive-affective processing dynamics that generate them.
This research has been funded in large part by MERIT Award research grants to Mischel from the National Institute of Mental Health, beginning in 1989 and continuing currently, in collaboration with Yuichi Shoda at the Department of Psychology, University of Washington, as co-PI, and Ozlem Ayduk at UC, Berkeley.
Supported by an
inter-disciplinary NSF ("Collaborative Research:
Self-Control in the Life Course"), my colleagues at
several universities and I also are examining
cognitive and neural bases of self-control, in
particular the ability to override impulsive
responding and to delay immediate gratification in
the service of delayed, but more desirable
consequences and future outcomes in the Bing
Longitudinal cohort and their young children. This
work is linking individual differences in delay of
gratification and long-term self-control patterns
to basic cognitive control mechanisms and to brain
anatomy and functioning. It addresses one of the
most enduring challenges for a science of mind,
brain, and behavior: the cognitive and neural
mechanisms and dynamic processes that enable
individuals to overcome strong situational
pressures for impulsive, automatic responding and
to exert self-control in light of anticipated
future outcomes, examined concurrently at the
social cognitive, behavioral, and cognitive
neuroscience-brain levels of analysis.
In collaboration with
C. Hart, supported by a NIDA Grant ("The Neural
Bases of Affect Regulation in Drug Abuse"), we are
examining the utility of applying "hot" and "cool"
cognitive appraisal strategies to identify the
conditions under which methamphetamine abusers can
a) use reappraisal strategies to "cool" the "hot"
appetitive pull of drug stimuli, b) recruit the
prefrontal and cingulate mechanisms supporting
these reappraisals, and c) as a consequence, reduce
the perceived desirability of the "hot" drug and
activation in structures like the amygdala that may
contribute to their impulsive appetitive
Selected courses: Personality,
Controversial Issues in Social and Personality
Recent media coverage
Jonah Lehrer. (18 May 2009). Don't! The secret of self-control. The New Yorker. (Dept. of Science)
Mischel, W., &
Ayduk, O. (2011). Willpower in a
Cognitive-Affective Processing System: The dynamics
of delay of gratification. In K. D. Vohs & R.
F. Baumeister (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research,
Theory, and Applications (2nd ed., pp. 83-105). New York: Guilford.
E., Mischel, W., & Shoda, Y. (2010).
Enabling self-control: A cognitive affective
processing system (CAPS) approach to problematic
behavior. In J. Maddux
& J. Tangney (Eds.), Social Psychological Foundations of
Clinical Psychology (pp. 375-394). New
Mischel, W., &
Shoda, Y. (2008). Toward a unified theory of
personality: Integrating dispositions and
processing dynamics within the Cognitive-Affective
Processing System (CAPS). In O. P. John, R. W.
Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of Personality
(3rd Ed., pp.
208-241). New York: Guilford.
Mischel, W., Shoda, Y.,
& Ayduk, O. (2008). Introduction to
personality: Toward an integrative science of the
person (8th ed.). New
Mischel, W. (2007).
Walter Mischel. In G. Lindzey & W. M. Runyan
(Eds.), A History of
Psychology in Autobiography (Vol. IX, pp.
229-267). Washington, DC: American
Eigsti, I., Zayas, V.,
Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., Ayduk, O., Dadlani, M. B.,
Davidson, M. C., Aber, J. L., & Casey, B. J.
(2006). Predictive cognitive control from
preschool to late adolescence and young
adulthood. Psychological Science, 17,
Kross, E., Ayduk, O.,
& Mischel, W. (2005). When asking
“why” doesn’t hurt:
Distinguishing rumination from reflective
processing of negative emotions. Psychological Science, 16,
Mischel, W. (2004).
Toward an integrative science of the person
(Prefatory Chapter). Annual
Review of Psychology, 55, 1-22.
Mischel, W., &
O. (2004). Willpower in a cognitive-affective
processing system: The dynamics of delay of
gratification. In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs
(Eds.), Handbook of
self-regulation: Research, Theory, and
Applications(pp. 99-129). New York:
Mischel, W., Shoda, Y.,
R. (2002). Situation-behavior profiles as a
locus of consistency in personality. Current Directions in Psychological
Science, 11, 50-54.
Mendoza-Denton, R., Mischel, W., Downey, G., Peake,
P.K., & Rodriguez, M. (2000). Regulating the
interpersonal self: Strategic self-regulation for
coping with rejection sensitivity. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 79, 776-792.
Sethi, A., Mischel, W.,
Aber, L., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, M. (2000).
The role of strategic attention deployment in
development of self-regulation: Predicting
preschoolers’ delay of gratification from
mother-toddler interactions. Developmental Psychology, 36,
Metcalfe, J., &
Mischel, W. (1999). A hot/cool system analysis of
delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower.
Mischel, W., &
Shoda, Y. (1995). A cognitive-affective system
theory of personality: Reconceptualizing
situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance
in personality structure. Psychological Review, 102,
Mischel, W., Shoda, Y.,
& Rodriguez, M. L. (1989). Delay of
gratification in children. Science, 244, 933-938.