A team of German psychologists and designers has invented a machine designed to sit on your desk and strengthen your willpower…by feeding you chocolates.
The team presented the device at a tech conference this month. They call it the Chocolate Machine, “a transformational product to improve self-control strength.”
As reported by Drake Bennett for Bloomberg Businessweek, the concept of the machine is strikingly simple: a tube that resembles a tall Pez dispenser releases a chocolate ball onto a person’s desk every 40 to 60 minutes. The desk jockey then has to decide whether to eat it or put it back in the machine.
In a study with the device, subjects were told at the start that putting the chocolate back into the machine would help build their willpower. The machine had a counter that kept track of how many times the user put the chocolates back into the tube.
It’s called ego depletion, a model for how self-control and decision-making works, most associated with Roy Baumeister, an American psychologist.
There is evidence that willpower, like a muscle, can be strengthened with exercise. Each chocolate that’s returned to the machine is like a set of push-ups or sit-ups for your self-control.
There were 24 participants in the study, with 10 using the machine and the rest in a control group. Of the 10 who used the machine, 7 found that the machine did indeed improve their willpower.
How do you think you’d do? I think I would probably respond like Pavlov’s Dog, eating the chocolate every time one popped out. Fortunately for me, there are apparently no plans to mass-produce the Chocolate Machine.
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