I recently reported about a finding that refines a widely-reported association between self-regulation and academic achievement. This association relates to the famous ‘marshmallow test’, in which young children were left alone with a marshmallow, having been told that if they could hold off eating it until the researcher returns, they would get two marshmallows. The ability of the young pre-school children to wait has been linked to subsequent achievement at school, and indeed has been said to be as important as IQ.
The finding I reported on Mynd relates to other factors that might be involved in a child’s decision not to wait — specifically, children who live in an environment where anything they had could be taken away at any time, make a completely rational choice by not waiting.
Another recent study makes a wider point: the children in the classical paradigm don’t know how long they will have to wait. This, the researchers say, changes everything.