One of the most important skills in life is impulse control and the ability to delay gratification.
The psychologist Walter Mischel famously came up with “The Marshmallow Test” to figure out early on people’s life whether they have impulse control or not.
It’s simple: Kids are offered a choice of whether to eat a marshmallow now, or wait a while and eat two marshmallows. It’s incredibly simple, yet according to Mischel it has excellent predictive power.
Here’s an explanation of what the study showed:
The third of the children who were most impulsive at four years of age scored an average of 524 verbal and 528 maths. The impulse controlled students who scored 610 verbal and 652 maths! This astounding 210 point total score difference on the SAT was predicted on the basis of a single observation at four years of age! The 210 point difference is as large as the average differences between that of economically advantaged versus disadvantaged children and is larger than the difference between children from families with graduate degrees versus children whose parents did not finish high school! At four years of age gobbling a marshmallow now v. waiting for two later is twice as good a predictor of later SAT scores than is IQ. Poor impulse control is also a better predictor of later delinquency than is IQ (Block, 1995).
Steve Hsu posts this cute video of the test being administered to kids. From it you can see which ones are going onto great things, and which ones… aren’t.
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