344 Delay Gratification Over Generations

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Research by Carlson, S. M., Shoda, Y., Ayduk, O., Aber, L., Schaefer, C., Sethi, A., Wilson, N., Peake, P. K., & Mischel (2018).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

Have you heard people say, “Kids today can’t wait, they must get things immediately!”

Researchers from seven large US universities studied whether children from the 1960’s, 1980’s, and 2000’s differed in how they experienced delay. Three cohorts of young children participated in the ‘Marshmallow Test’ whereby each child was in a room where one treat (e.g. one marshmallow or one cookie) was placed.  The researcher left the room with the instructions, that if the child waited for the researcher to return, they would receive two treats; if they did not want to wait they could ring a bell and immediately eat the one treat.

The findings were opposite of what people predicted.  Children actually became more successful at waiting across the decades.  Children in the 2000s waited on average 2 minutes longer than children in the 1960s, and 1 minute longer than children in the 1980s.

Why?  Twice the number of parents in the 2000s obtained high school and college degrees compared with 1960s. Education requires attention, problem solving, reasoning and self-control. Parents likely teach, model, and encourage their children, to acquire skills they’ve acquired.

Teach and insist your children use good study skills and ask what they’re learning.

Reference:

Carlson, S. M., Shoda, Y., Ayduk, O., Aber, L., Schaefer, C., Sethi, A., Wilson, N., Peake, P. K., &   Mischel (2018). Cohort effects in children’s delay of gratification. Developmental              Psychology, 54(8), 1395-1407.

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About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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