Walter Mischel, 84, recently published his research memoirs in a book titled, “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self Control.“ Many in the LDS community will remember President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s April 2010 General Conference talk in which he referenced Mr. Mischel’s marshmallow study. The Mormon Channel created a stand-alone video on the research as presented by President Uchtdorf.
President Uchtdorf mentioned that the power of four or five-year-olds to delay gratification was a predictor of future success in life. Specifically, five-year-olds who waited longer were less likely to use drugs, be more psychologically healthy, get higher SAT scores and have a lower body-mass index as an adult. Implications of interest in Mr. Mischel’s new book include other implications of interest as well.
1) Willpower is more a function of training than genetic predisposition. Mr Mischel writes that, “the genome can be as malleable as we once believed only environments could be.”
2) Parents, especially fathers matter. Studies in Trinidad early in Mr. Mischel’s career suggest that delayed gratification was, for many, a matter of trust, and that those children with absent parents were more likely to devour the marshmallow and not wait. This is especially true of children with absent fathers.
Delayed gratification was, for many, a matter of trust, and that those children with absent parents were more likely to devour the marshmallow and not wait. This is especially true of children with absent fathers.
3) Future thinking is better. Mr. Mischel, a former smoker, credits his ability to kick his smoking addiction by focusing on long-term consequences.
4) Delayed gratification closely correlates with goal pursuit. This should come as no surprise.