Children of this generation can Delay Gratification for much Longer than the Kids of 90s

Children of this generation can Delay Gratification for much Longer than the Kids of 90s

The Marshmallow Test reveals that the children of this day and age have more self-control than those in the 1960s.

Technological advancement and inventions like smartphones and tablets have enhanced the pace of our lives considerably. Just like everything else, technology has its pros and cons but we adopted it for its benefits. It is generally blamed that too much of it has had a harmful impact on the minds of today’s children but a new study has shown us the other side of the picture. Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that today’s kids can delay a gratification longer than their counterparts in 1960 if they know there is more reward attached to it. This is a complete contradiction of the assumption of today’s parents and adults as they believe that the kids of previous generations had more self-control. The lead researcher of the study, Stephanie M. Carlson, announced that in the following words:

Although we live in an instant gratification era where everything seems to be available immediately via smartphone or the internet, our study suggests that today’s kids can delay gratification longer than children in the 1960s and 1980s. This finding stands in stark contrast with the assumption by adults that today’s children have less self-control than previous generations.”

The researching team made use of the ‘Marshmallow Test’ which was conducted for the first time in the 1960s. At that time, this test was conducted under the guidance of Dr. Walter Mischel of Stanford University. He chose a group of kids aging between 3 and 5 and provided each of them with a marshmallow. He told them that they can eat it once he leaves the room but they can get two if they wait for 20 minutes. His team observed the reaction of the children from behind a one-way mirror once he left the room.

It was found that one-third of the students ate the sweet immediately, one-third of them did wait but their patience broke down at varying times, and the rest of them waited for Mischel to return. The first batch of those students left the school 14 years later and that was the time when the correlation between success in life and the results of the test was confirmed. The students who displayed good self-control outscored their companions academically as well as socially. On the other hand, the children who couldn’t resist the temptation of the marshmallow lacked the self-esteem and faced difficulties in their academic as well as professional lives.

Psychologists repeated the test in the 1980s, and 2000s to compare the children of different generations and Carlson and her team had a look at all these tests. They found that the kids who participated in such studies in the 2000s waited an average of one minute longer than those of 1980s, and two minutes longer than those tested in 1960s. What made this finding more interesting was an online survey, which was conducted by the team of researchers, to see how adults compare the children of these generations. A total of 358 adults took part in this activity and most of them voted in favor of the 1960s kids.  According to the results of the survey, 75% of the people thought that today’s children would have less self-control while 72% believed that they will wait less long. However, practical observations proved all of them wrong as Dr. Yuichi Shoda, a co-author of the study, said,

Our findings serve as an example of how our intuition can be wrong and how it’s important to do research. If we hadn’t been systematically collecting data on how long children wait in this type of experiment, and if we hadn’t analyzed the data, we would not have found these changes.”

The team of Carlson came up with a number of reasons why the kids of 2000s waited longer than those in prior decades. One of the key factors was that the number of children attending preschool increased to 50% (2000) from 15.7% (1960). This helped in increasing the abstract thoughts of the children. Similarly, the IQ scores have seen a substantial increase in the last 4-5 decades and scientists believe that increased globalization and rapidly changing technologies are the reason for that. Last but not the least, the change in the attitude of the parents has played a massive role as they started supporting children’s autonomy and became less controlling. Having said that, Carlson believes that still a lot of work needs to be done and she expressed that by saying,

But our work is far from over. Inequality persists in developmental outcomes for children in poverty.

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