For my research essay, I will be analyzing whether a person’s ability to exhibit self control and delayed gratification is a result of experiences and environmental impact, rather than being a predetermined trait. Is self control a unitary quality, or is delayed gratification a situational trait? A very famous study (Marshmallow Study) by Stanford Professor Walter Mischel demonstrated that when preschool children were able to delay gratification by waiting to eat a treat, they grew up to be more successful adults than those children who did not have that level of self control. In this study, done in the 1960’s, Mischel gave the children a treat (a marshmallow, a cookie, a pretzel) and told the children that if they could wait 15 minutes to eat it, they would get an extra treat. After following the children to adulthood, researchers discovered that those children who demonstrated self control were healthier, had more success, and better grades than those children who immediately ate the treat. Psychologists and social scientists realized that emotional intelligence and self control were more important to life success than IQ intelligence.
However, a new study by Celeste Kidd of the University of Rochester seems to challenge the assumption that exhibiting self control is a predetermined trait that leads to success. In her study, she found that trust and confidence in the results of waiting to receive the reward plays a significant role in a person’s ability to delay gratification. The children tested were able to make rational decisions on the probability of reward based on trust. Celeste Kidd was able to manipulate the degree of delayed gratification by introducing reliable and unreliable variables to their experiment. In several other studies I have researched, it becomes apparent to me that there has to be social trust (trust in people delivering future rewards as promised) in order for people to be willing to delay gratification in order to achieve a goal. There are also studies that indicate when a child has an absent father, or is homeless, there is a greater probability of a lack of self control.
- The Marshmallow Study Revisited
Background: This article discusses the methodology and results of Celeste Kidd’s reinvention of the Marshmallow Study. It demonstrates how children were able to make rational decisions based on the probability of reward.
How I Intend To Use It: This article helps to reinforce my hypothesis that experiences and environmental impact have significant impact on a person’s ability to exhibit self control and delayed gratification. It also demonstrated how self control can be taught to children by enabling their trust in the future outcome.
- Twist on “Marshmallow Test” Shows Environment Affects Self Control
Background: This article discusses the role of trust versus innate self control. It discusses the origin of Kidd’s decision to study the Marshmallow Test (she was at a homeless shelter and knew that the children there would have no self control because of the environment). It also discusses how children with absent fathers scored the lowest in self control.
How I Intend to Use it: It is fascinating that those children with the least amount of trust (absent fathers, homeless environments) are those that score the lowest in self control and delayed gratification, strengthening my hypothesis that trust and confidence are essential beliefs to be successful. These children had little faith that the adults would deliver on their promises, thus they live in unreliable worlds.
- 40 Years of Stanford Research Found That People With This One Quality Are More Likely To Succeed
Background: This article discusses the Marshmallow Study and the subsequent Kidd Study and states that the ability to delay gratification is critical for success in life. This article states that delaying gratification and self control can be learned and applied.
How I Intend To Use It: This article has four main ways to teach self control, which I intend to analyze in my research paper. It also reinforces my theory that self control is not an innate trait, and can be influenced by environment and experiences.
- Delaying Gratification Depends on Social Trust
Background: This article analyzes that impact of social trust on self control and delaying gratification. The scientists conclude that people are less willing to wait for rewards when dealing with others they consider untrustworthy.
How I Intend To Use It: This study raises the questions whether early interventions of at risk children (homeless, fatherless) and how providing trust and confidence will affect their ability to delay gratification. Social trustworthiness could address juvenile crime and drug addiction and improve behavior.
- Delaying Gratification
Background: This article discusses why self control succeeds or fails through a “hot or cold” system. The cool system is cognitive in nature , and reflective. The hot system is impulsive and emotional. The article talks about brain activity and that people with low self control had different brain patterns than people with high self control. It discusses how some people are more prone to hot emotional triggers.
How I Intend To Use It: This article has a neurological basis for the ability to delay gratification which I find very interesting. It also discusses whether or not delaying gratification can be taught, whether or not a person’s cognitive nature is cool or hot.