An old Stanford study famously found that preschoolers who could leave a marshmallow alone for 15 minutes in order to gain a second one would go on to do better at life. A new study suggests that the important factor here may not be the self control of the child, but the child’s level of trust that the second marshmallow would ever appear.
Actually, according to Wikipedia, the prequel to the original Stanford marshmallow experiment was already quite revealing:
Origins: The experiment has its roots in an earlier one performed on Trinidad, where Mischel noticed that the different ethnic groups living on the island had contrasting stereotypes of one another, specifically, on the other’s perceived recklessness, self-control, and ability to have fun. This small (n= 53) study of male and female children aged 7 to 9 (35 Black and 18 East Indian) in a rural Trinidad school involved the children in indicating a choice between receiving a 1c candy immediately, or having a (preferable) 10c candy given to them in one week’s time. Mischel reported a significant ethnic difference, large age differences, and that “Comparison of the “high” versus “low” socioeconomic groups on the experimental choice did not yield a significant difference”. Absence of the father was prevalent in the African-descent group (occurring only once in the East Indian group), and this variable showed the strongest link to delay of gratification, with children from intact families showing superior ability to delay.
And learning of mathematics is all about delayed gratification …