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New Study: A Reliable Environment Critical to Fostering Self-Control In Children

The so-called marshmallow test – one of the most fascinating experiments in child psychology – just got even more interesting.

In studies first conducted in the 1960s, researchers presented children with a marshmallow and told them if they could resist eating it for a few minutes they would get two marshmallows. It was discovered that self-control correlated with success later in life. But is the ability to resist temptation innate?

In a new study, researchers at the University of Rochester found that a child’s environment plays just as much of a role as innate self-control.

“Being able to delay gratification – in this case to wait 15 difficult minutes to earn a second marshmallow – not only reflects a child’s capacity for self-control, it also reflects their belief about the practicality of waiting,” Celeste Kidd, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the university, and lead author of the study, said in a release.

In the study, published online in the journal Cognition, 28 children ages 3 to 5 were put in two environments, one reliable, the other unreliable. In the unreliable environment, they were given used crayons and told that if they could hold off on playing with them the researcher would come back with better art supplies. After a few minutes, the researcher returned, saying there actually aren’t any…

Read more: Dave McGinn, The Globe and Mail

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