a tale of two hearts

that marshmallow experiment

I read this article in the New Yorker this morning. I know I've told you about the marshmallow experiment about 1000 times already but I just find it sooo fascinating. It makes my mind spin-off into a 1001 thoughts each time I read about it.

Two of those thoughts today were:
1. I am so gratefully for my mum. She is a woman of great wisdom and I'm so thankful I was in her care as a child. I owe so much of my 'sucesses' to her hard work when I was a toddler.
2. I'm so thankful God doesn't give us what we want straight away. It turns out the patience we develop is often the better gift.
Below are a few of my favourite sections from the New Yorker article.
.....

Intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework. “What we’re really measuring with the marshmallows isn’t will power or self-control,” Mischel says. “It’s much more important than that. This task forces kids to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the second marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.”
 ..
According to Mischel, this view of will power also helps explain why the marshmallow task is such a powerfully predictive test. “If you can deal with hot emotions, then you can study for the S.A.T. instead of watching television,”
 ..
Subsequent work by Mischel and his colleagues found that these differences were observable in subjects as young as nineteen months. Looking at how toddlers responded when briefly separated from their mothers, they found that some immediately burst into tears, or clung to the door, but others were able to overcome their anxiety by distracting themselves, often by playing with toys.
.. 
The early appearance of the ability to delay suggests that it has a genetic origin, an example of personality at its most predetermined. Mischel resists such an easy conclusion. “In general, trying to separate nature and nurture makes about as much sense as trying to separate personality and situation,” he says. “The two influences are completely interrelated.” For instance, when Mischel gave delay-of-gratification tasks to children from low-income families in the Bronx, he noticed that their ability to delay was below average, at least compared with that of children in Palo Alto. “When you grow up poor, you might not practice delay as much,” he says. “And if you don’t practice then you’ll never figure out how to distract yourself. You won’t develop the best delay strategies, and those strategies won’t become second nature.” In other words, people learn how to use their mind just as they learn how to use a computer: through trial and error.
 ..
But Mischel has found a shortcut. When he and his colleagues taught children a simple set of mental tricks—such as pretending that the candy is only a picture, surrounded by an imaginary frame—he dramatically improved their self-control. The kids who hadn’t been able to wait sixty seconds could now wait fifteen minutes. “All I’ve done is given them some tips from their mental user manual,” Mischel says. “Once you realize that will power is just a matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really begin to increase it.”
 ..
He knows that it’s not enough just to teach kids mental tricks—the real challenge is turning those tricks into habits, and that requires years of diligent practice.
 ..
“This is where your parents are important,” Mischel says. “Have they established rituals that force you to delay on a daily basis? Do they encourage you to wait? And do they make waiting worthwhile?” According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood—such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning—are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires.
.. 
But Mischel isn’t satisfied with such an informal approach. “We should give marshmallows to every kindergartner,” he says. “We should say, ‘You see this marshmallow? You don’t have to eat it. You can wait. Here’s how.’ "