The Mixed Benefits of a Low-Threshold. 

By Trissean McDonald Individuals that develop characteristics of a low-threshold will most likely adopt other innovations with which those “low-threshold” individuals’ preference of choice becomes a factor in any situational circumstance, due to the mixed benefits of displaying low-threshold characteristics.

 I know, eyebrows are possibly rising. However, illustrations will be given to support this alleged claim, as well as future claims that may possibly be presented. Several examples will be extracted from the book “Where Good Ideas Come From,” a written text “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control,” and from the text “Thresholds of Violence.” 

Within these texts, the benefits, as well as the disadvantages of exhibiting a low-threshold will be conveyed. As mentioned previously, having a low threshold has mixed benefits. 
The mixed benefits of a low-threshold could have a negative impact on an individual, or perhaps even a positive life-changing impact on an individual. It’s situational circumstances that will always leave that low-threshold individual in contemplation of quickly adopting an innovation to bring about an action, whether negatively or positively.

 In the late 1960’s according to “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control,” by Jonah Lehrer, a study was conducted on a 4-year-old, Carolyn Weisz. Carolyn, who was invited into a “game room” at the Bing Nursery School, on the campus of Stanford University, was asked to sit down in a chair and pick a treat from an array of delicate treats such as marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks. 

Carolyn chose the marshmallow. Walter Mischel, a Stanford professor of psychology, who conducted and in charge of the experimental study, then made an offer to Carolyn: she could either eat one marshmallow instantly, or if she was willing to delay gratification while he stepped out of the room for a few minutes, she could then have two marshmallows when he returned. 

Mischel had a bell on the desk in front of Carolyn. He told her if she were to ring the bell on the desk while he was out of the room, he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow yet forfeit the second. He leaves the room, and the experimental study begins. “I’ve always been really good at waiting. If you give me a challenge or a task, then I’m going to find a way to do it, even if it means not eating my favorite food,” Carolyn stated to Lehrer.

 Albeit Carolyn’s memory of the experiment is not concise, and the scientists were not willing to release any data concerning the subjects, Carolyn is adamant that she indeed was able to delay gratification, earning her a second marshmallow. 

The same experimental study was conducted on her brother Craig, who is one year older than Carolyn. However, the items that were presented to Craig were toys and candy. “At a certain point, it must have occurred to me that I was all by myself. And so I just started taking all the candy.” 

A lot of children were like Craig. They lacked the ability to delay gratification in less than 3 minutes. “A few kids ate the marshmallow right away. They didn’t even bother ringing the bell. Other kids would stare directly at the marshmallow and then ring the bell thirty seconds later,” Mischel stated.

 Yet, there were nearly 30% of children that delayed gratification, like Carolyn. They endured temptation and found a way to resist. Mischel, in 1981, sent out a survey to parents, teachers, and academic advisors of the 653 subjects who had taken part in the marshmallow experiment. 

According to Lehrer, Mischel inquired every trait he could think of. Upon analyzing the results of the surveys, Mischel observed that low-delayer, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed most likely to exhibit behavioral problems at home and school. 

Additionally, these individuals tend to struggle in stressful situations, usually have difficulty paying attention, and find it challenging creating social interactions with their peers. These individuals, instead of delaying gratification, gave into their instant gratification and was rewarded instantly without an increase.

 They settle. Indeed, they benefited a sure reward; however, their low-threshold characteristics exhibited a negative innovative adoption to a situational circumstance with which their preference of choosing to adopt to an innovation quickly came into factor. 

Craig, who has been doing “all kinds of things” in the entertainment industry, mostly production says, “Sure, I wish I had been a more patient person. Looking back, there are definitely moments when it would have helped me make better career choices and stuff.” 

The experimental study concluded in “Don’t! The Secret of Self-Control” is an illustration of the negative connotations of having a low-threshold. Even though Craig presumably didn’t have behavioral problem at home or school, he still exhibited struggles in stressful situations, disabling him to pursue a career path more suitable towards his likening, and causing him to miss out on a second toy. 

Stephane Tarnier, in the 1870’s, utilized the low-threshold environment of Materité de Paris, to welcome in an innovative creation that halved the mortality rate for infants of that time. 

Inspired by a local zoo, Tarnier managed to stumble across an exhibit of chicken eggs inside an incubator, according to Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From.” 

Albeit Tarnier’s knowledge of the French medical establishment’s scrutiny over statistics, he built a device that was warmed by hot water bottles and wooden boxes that dramatically changed the world of medicine forever. 

Throughout the years to come after, improvements were definitely modified. However, the concept of a human incubator would not have ever existed if there were no low-threshold indicators to spark a circumstantial situation that would later improve the whole world. 

Therefore we could agree that the low-threshold of Tarnier’s environment, successfully adopted a new method of innovation that to this very day is impacting his environment positively, as well as the world’s today. 

Even though both negative and positive benefits of having a low-threshold has been illustrated, let me enlighten you with a few more examples:

Mark Granovetter, nearly forty years ago, gave illustration to his definition of a low-threshold. He give examples in the form of a riot starter having a threshold of zero. 

The individual that follows next exhibits a threshold of one because it took one person to initiate that person to join in, and the numbers then continues in that fashion. The person with a zero threshold is willing to perhaps throw a rock through a window at the slightest hint of provocation, according to Granovetter. 

So a person with a low-threshold is easily provoked to react without giving consideration to consequences, due to “daring masculine acts brings status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy,” according to a statement given by Granovetter. 

Therefore, having a low-threshold individual present in any situational circumstance which may possibly provoke a reaction of response, is equivalent to a lit dynamite stick. They’re both adopting an instant gratification that will ultimately defuse into chaos. 

Altogether, having a low-threshold isn’t always a negative, and it’s not always a positive. It’s something that lies in the middle. Nevertheless, it’s the negatives that usually illuminate themselves as infamous indicators of a low-threshold more than the positives. But hey, isn’t that with almost everything in life, always finding and illuminating the negatives? 

Nevertheless, we should consider broadening our minds to the possibilities of having a low-threshold individual amongst our presence, because some circumstances are not meant to always have high-threshold individuals. 

A protest is a perfect example. Without a low-threshold individual of zero, there’s no one that will potentially join in, allowing the numbers to escalate. 

Therefore it’s fair to say, a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover; rather, the concept that’s within. The same applies for low-threshold individuals, even though having a nature that’s easily provoked to bring about a reaction that could have a negative or perhaps a positive result. 


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