Friday, May 29, 2009

Patient Children

I wanted to share an interesting New Yorker article about research into being patient. An experiment allowed kids either to have one marshmallow, or to be patient and get two. Kids were filmed and the researcher found that the ones who managed to wait often adopted a specific technique to put the marshmallow out of their mind: covering their eyes, looking away, and so on. Ones who tried will-power -- even staring at it with determined resolution -- did not do as well. And then, there were some who did not even try.

Then, years later, the researcher did a follow-up survey. Parents of the "patient" kids reported significantly less problems at school (not surprising). However, he also found the "patient" group had SAT scores that averages 200 points higher than the group that could not wait.

Of course, this does not mean the "patient" group is somehow better off, nor that they will be more successful. I think this is one of those areas where neither stereotype is ideal, and that choosing between one or the other is most likely a false dichotomy.

The article has other interesting details: for instance, research into whether the ability to wait is "environmental" or "genetic". It's a long 6-pages, but thought-provoking for a parent.

HT: Carpe Diem


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