When I was a child my parents signed me up for a series of psychological studies at the University of Toronto, meaning that my childhood was punctuated by a phone interviews with PhD students asking about my sleeping habits and occasional visits to a child psychology lab in downtown Toronto (for which I received the then-invaluable reward of a Blockbuster rental certificate). On other occasions researchers came to my primary school and I was pulled out of class to complete logic puzzles in front of a couple educational psychologists in a repurposed changing room.
One of the experiments I participated in when I was maybe 4 years old was a version of the marshmallow test, where I was seated alone in a room with a marshmallow on a plate on the table in front of me. In the experiment, the subject is told that if they can wait for a set length of time without eating the marshmallow, they will get several marshmallows. Researchers have found correlations between being able to resist eating the marshmallow and life outcomes, such as higher SAT scores and educational attainment. According to my mum, who brought me to the lab, I had the marshmallow in my mouth before the supervising researcher was even out of the room.
Depending on how you want to interpret those results, it could be a bit astonishing that I even finished secondary school. I’ve taken it as a lesson in both the power of statistics to predict and understand events, and the challenges of using individual cases to understand broad trends and using broad trends to interpret individual cases.
At the moment I’m living London, having come to the UK from Canada in 2014 to do an MSc in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford, and then pursued work in the charity sector doing impact analysis, data science and social research. I am particularly interested in disabilities, employment policy, education and healthcare, but I find all social policies and social phenomena generally fascinating. I like open data and improving ease of use, so I have a dataset of UK parliamentary speeches with sentiment analysis, and have produced a few R packages. I have a semi-frequently used Twitter feed, build the odd Shiny app, have put a bunch of projects on GitHub and I’m also occasionally out in the real world doing various things.