USE THIS: Marshmallows and Will Power

Posted on August 17, 2012 by Stephanie Alderdice

 Will power. Some people have it. Some people cave in. (I'm usually the latter of the two.)

Reading about the Marshmallow Experiment (loose nickname) involving 4 year-old kids and will power, it seems that the ability to delay gratification may have benefits later in life. Forty years ago, researchers gave each child a serving of a marshmallow, a pretzel, or a cookie. The kids were told that they could eat what they were given immediately. If they waited, though, they would be given an additional treat. 

Many of them had adorable conniption fits while trying to resist the marshmallow's fluffy temptation. Many gave in after several minutes. A few were able to wait over half an hour for the researcher to return with the extra sweet. The ones who demonstrated will power as children, as the Slate article notes, became adults who were better at planning, could handle stress, and were less likely to be overweight. Best of all, researchers found that will power wasn't a magical ability, but something that can be attained. Learning to delay gratification requires strategy. 

Speakers, the Marshmallow Experiment can be a great example that illustrates the power of temptation and the benefit of will power. Interpers, check out the more detailed account in The New Yorker. Maybe you can channel the kids' reactions to temptation ("Some cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray. Others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal.") for your next D.I.

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USE THIS: How Eating Bugs Can Save The World

Posted on August 15, 2012 by Stephanie Alderdice

When you're lucky, tournament hosts have a bevvy of delicious meal-time options available for your snacking. Ooey, gooey hot pizza, ice-cold drinks, maybe there's a Subway (or, GASP! a Coldstone Creamery) within walking distance of competition. Happy bellies beget happy competitors.

Or, maybe there's a vending machine that isn't broken and you can cram down 2-3 peanut butter crackers by a water fountain before Extemp prep begins. You're hungry for success, after all. This feeling is nothing new. 

However, Slate's Josh Schonwald proposes a couple of culinary items that may make the tournament vending machines more palatable in comparison. His proposal? Removing the "ick-factor" from eating insects and seaweed. 

He states, "This prejudice against eating insects—four-fifths of all known organisms on earth—is slowly starting to change. A growing number of people are beginning to recognize that bugs...may be the ultimate sustainable protein source." And while some people may embrace the abundant and nutrient-rich kelp, others are more than happy to leave it in Spongebob's backyard. He discusses not only the dietary and environmental benefits that adding insects and kelp may have, but reminds us that the other parts of the world aren't as reluctant as Americans to add small amounts of insects to their daily diet. 

By this point, some of you reading may be shaking your head and channeling Amy Winehouse with an emphatic, "No, no, no." That's okay. Despite some of the more creative challenges in reality competition, the idea of is still extreme to most Americans.

The article can still be incredibly useful for speakers. Use it as an example to discuss differences between cultures, or the creative ways in which people are discussing global sustainability. He introduces the article with a neat bit of history surrounding the lobster. Though it is considered a delicacy today, lobster was once considered disgusting and unfit to feed to prisoners more than once a week. Truly, it's an example of how time changes the opinions we hold. 

Speaking of which, did you know that October 14th is National Chocolate-Covered Insect Day? So if someone hands you some candy that day, just be sure to double check the ingredients.

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USE THIS: The Olympic Swimmer Who Had Never Swam In An Olympic Sized Pool

Posted on August 08, 2012 by Stephanie Alderdice

USE THIS is a new series that collects interesting narratives, examples, statistics, and any other bits of trivia that can be used for introductions, oratories, or limited prep examples.

Have you ever felt unprepared for competition? I don't mean having to re-run through your introduction on the van ride to the tournament. I'm talking about the, “I don’t think I ever memorized the last three minutes of my piece” kind of unprepared. “Oh well,” you say, “it’s just a tournament.”

Well, suppose “just a tournament” was really “the 2000 summer Olympic games in Sydney” and “unprepared” meant “being entered to swim without ever having been in an Olympic-size pool.” You only have a judge and perhaps a few sleepy competitors. Swimmer Eric Moussambani had the entire world watching.

Head over to MentalFloss to read how Olympic swimmer Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea went from local swim practice to dog paddling and splashing his way through a 100m heat in the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney. True, you may feel that slightly awkward cringe when you recall your own experience stumbling through a performance. But don't worry, his story has a happy ending.

So if you’re looking for an example of being underprepared, and…well…in over your head, so to speak…think about using Eric Moussambani’s story. 

Though, you should still get all of your events ready a little earlier.


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