Gummy Bears and SAT scores

While watching a documentary on apes (yes, really), they mentioned a study about impulse control and future intellectual performance. It was a simple study where a researcher placed a single marshmallow in front of a 4 year old and told the child that if they did not eat the marshmallow before the researcher returned, they would get 2 marshmallows. Some of the kids grabbed the marshmallow right away and others waited as long as 20 minutes. It turned out that the children with better impulse control had better SAT scores as adults. You can read a more thorough synopsis here.

So...I decided to try the study on my own kids. Just to see what they would do. I asked them each separately to sit in the living room with a single gummy bear. I set the gummy bear on top of an upside down plastic cup. I let them know that I would be back in a while to check on them and if they had not eaten the bear, they could have 3 bears. I said they could totally eat the bear in front of them if they wanted to, but if they could be patient I would have three bears waiting. So, I left the room and resisted the urge to peek. Next time, I'll probably peek. I came back after 5 minutes with my 3 year old, and she was patiently staring at the gummy bear. So she was rewarded with 3 bears. She was happy. I asked her if she had wanted to eat the bear while I was gone and she said yes. But she waited. Could she have made it longer? Probably, but I was bored and wanted to come check.

Then it was time for my 4 year old to take the test. I left him longer, for 7 minutes. Again, I ended it out of my own boredom... When I met him in the living room, I saw him smiling and the cup sitting on the floor, with No gummy bear. I was shocked! Then he started laughing and tipped the cup over. The bear was under the cup. He had tricked me! He got his 3 bears. So he could be patient but couldn't resist tricking his mom.

Next time I'll have to see if they can make it for a longer period of time. Either way, I think they had fairly good impulse control. I think they both have the potential to do well in academics as long as my son actually puts forth the effort and as long as my daughter doesn't get side tracked with friends and make-up. They are so different, it's crazy.


Jessica-MomForHim said...

So fun--this is the stuff that got me into child psychology--so interesting! I think I'll try it with my girls, too! I don't have gummy bears, so I guess I'll use marshmallows. I think it's hilarious that he tricked you by hiding the bear! :-) Smart kid!

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