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 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 educational psychologists in a re-purposed changing room.
One of the experiments I participated in when I was roughly 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 pitfalls of using individual cases to understand broad trends and using broad trends to interpret individual cases.
I live in Berlin, after six years in the UK. I moved to the UK from Canada in 2014 to do an MSc in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford, and then worked in the charity sector doing impact analysis, data science and social research. I like open data and improving ease of use, so I have a dataset of UK parliamentary speeches , and have produced a few R packages. I have a semi-frequently used Twitter feed, have put a bunch of projects on GitHub and I’m also occasionally out in the real world doing things like running ultramarathons.