Twitter, Alan Hardy and the Psychology of Time

Kevin Nolan and Alan Hardy

I’m sure many of us have heard of The Marshmallow Test. Established at Stanford University in the late 1960s, children were confronted by the dilemma of eating a marshmallow they’d been asked not to eat or waiting until the end of the test and having two. The responses were recorded and scrutinised, as five year olds squirmed and contorted under the pressure of wanting instant gratification or waiting for greater reward.

I can’t help but feel we Notts fans are currently experiencing our own marshmallow test (though the bait is free pies). And anyone who follows the responses to Alan Hardy’s excellent Twitter exchanges will see the connection.

Dr Phillip Zimbardo believed that the test revealed three dominant psychologies in perceiving time: Past Focused, Present Focused and Future Focused. And these psychologies dominate our lives, its direction and successes.

Those who were past-focused were deeply suspicious. They related the present experience to those they’d experienced in the past. Anxiety dominates. Caution rules. They refused the marshmallow on the basis that it might be a trap and doubted the chances of a second. Despite the huge positivity of Alan Hardy’s fan engagement, there are many who warn similar caution on the basis that we’ve experienced much before. Whether it was Ray Trew posting on Mad or his wife Aileen on Twitter, previous fan engagement ended in disaster and many warn Alan of what they perceive to be his inevitable downfall.

Present-focused contestants snatched the marshmallow with little concern for the promised, better future. The ‘now’ is all that matters. But the trouble with the present is it shifts quickly, meaning it’s a rollercoaster of emotions from the pleasure of eating the marshmallow to mourning the passing of the promised two. I’ve read plenty of responses to Alan’s ‘five year plan’ or ambitious claims of the club’s potential progress that try to drag him back to the here and now. What about the embargo, Alan? Future of the Lady Pies? Can you fix the leaky bog under the Pavis? Fans can’t be blamed for this. I can count at least three previous ‘Five Year Plans’ and there is little escaping the fact we sit in the bottom two. But for Hardy, who seems very future-focused and has only been in position for a matter of weeks, this must difficult to hear.

Future-focused participants waited. They ignored their present situation, however desperate they felt, for the greater reward. The Promised Land. The Five Year Plan. Zimbardo then tracked these children through adulthood, and the results were staggering. Over 100pts more on their SATs, greater academic outcomes, lower BMI and even less car accidents. Future-focused people and their ability to tolerate an unpalatable present are ultimately rewarded. Hardy clearly fits in this category. He wants improved youth development, increased crowds, enhanced fan engagement. And if his previous businesses are anything to go by, he’ll do it.

But we need to trust him. Trust the fact that there is a big plate of success at the end of this and we’ll just have to sit on our hands and wait. Ignore our fears based on past administrations. Ride out temporary bumps in the road that football will inevitably bring. The future just might be worth it.

Photo: Matthew Hoyland

Colin Sisson

One Comment

  1. Reading this today in January 2018, sitting 2nd in the league and in the 4th round of the cup having only lost once at home this season, it really resonates. I think many of the past focused and present focused are becoming future focused at last. Great piece and unusual (pleasantly so) to find a new angle to a football story.

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