Is There Hope? Kids Are More Into Delayed Gratification

Lord Keynes famously said:”In the long run, we are all dead.” In other words, don’t worry about it. He then help setup a socioeconomic system which quickly brought nearly 200 million dead (WWII plus the likes of Maoism). This is a danger, because acting crazy removes worries about the long run, so there is a “good” motivation to do so (however crazy that may sound). Humanity has to learn to think long term. Kids today are waiting longer than ever in the classic marshmallow test

Researchers who found the effect aren’t sure what’s driving this willingness to delay gratification

The hope is that, exposed to contemplating motivations all over the place, say in movies, children are more into meta-control, because they learned that motivation can go wrong, often driven by impatience. 

The test promises double the reward, if one holds out ten minutes. Over the past 50 years, white, middle-class kids have shown an increasing willingness to delay gratification on the marshmallow test.

The willingness to delay gratification has recently bloomed among U.S. preschoolers from predominantly white, middle-class families, say psychologist Stephanie Carlson of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and her colleagues. Youngsters aged 3 to 5 in the 2000s waited an average of two minutes longer during the marshmallow test than children in the 1960s did, and an average of one minute longer than 1980s kids did, the scientists report June 25 in Developmental Psychology.

Carlson’s team offers several possible explanations, including increases in the ability to think abstractly, pay attention, plan and prioritize that have been linked to preschool attendance and early use of digital information.

From the start, the marshmallow test has examined kids’ willingness to resist an available goody while waiting 10 to 15 minutes to receive double the edible pleasure. In this case, extra treats were doled out if a child waited a full 10 minutes for an experimenter who had left to return. .

The marshmallow test cannot determine a child’s future, but it is a reliable indicator of how well kids can reflect on a challenging situation and come up with strategies to achieve their goal,” “That may portend well for school and social situations.” Carlson said.

In the new study, the team analyzed and compared data from three groups of 3- to 5-year-olds: 165 kids who completed the marshmallow test between 1965 and 1969, 135 who did so between 1985 and 1989, and 540 tested between 2002 and 2012.

The average amount of time kids were willing to wait for a treat increased in each generation — from about five minutes in the ‘60s to six minutes in the ‘80s and seven minutes in the 2000s. That trend was observed among both boys and girls, younger and older preschoolers and kids in different parts of the United States.

It’s not known if the same trend applies to kids from poor and nonwhite families. Some previous evidence suggests children on the lower end of the economic scale often choose an immediate but lesser treat on the marshmallow test, Carlson says. That behavior makes sense if children live in unpredictable settings or don’t trust adults who promise future treat bonuses.

It is striking is that nearly 60 percent of preschoolers tested in the 2000s waited out the entire 10-minute delay period, versus almost 40 percent in the 1980s and about 30 percent in the 1960s. I believe this is due to the fact children are constantly exposed to scenarios in movies they watch (including of course cartoons)… And of course preschool, where they are exposed to adults who can be trusted.

Is humanity starting to think, and emote, long range, and long term? As lifespans expand, long range thinking will be the essence of survival.



7 Responses to “Is There Hope? Kids Are More Into Delayed Gratification”

  1. Benign Says:

    Can also be looked at as more obedient and entrained, less willing to take a risk. This trend coincides with a general dumbing down as well. I was a child in the US in the 1960s and can say that we were a lot more free than kids today, willing and allowed to do all sorts of crazy stuff.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hmmmm… I didn’t think about that cynical interpretation. I do think teenagers are dumbed down, but the kids of my daughter’s age, ten years less, seem extremely mature: they hold their own against teens… Anyway, what you say doesn’t really contradict it: less willing to take risks, thus, and because more reflective…


  2. G Max Says:

    Preschool and trust. Older parents, less lying: young parents are too busy living, they lie by expediency


  3. Rich Reinhofer Says:

    You’re mischaracterizing Keynes’s statement. The statement was aimed at those pushing off accountability. Lazy thinking was the target.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hmmmm… First, I have known of the quote for decades. Second, I have contextualized Keynes, giving him an overall maleficent aura. Niall Ferguson made what looks superficially as the same mistake as me in 2013 (but in an inadmissible supercilious, anti-gay context). Here is what Ferguson said:
      “05/04/2013 Share Print
      An Unqualified Apology
      During a recent question-and-answer session at a conference in California, I made comments about John Maynard Keynes that were as stupid as they were insensitive.

      I had been asked to comment on Keynes’s famous observation “In the long run we are all dead.” The point I had made in my presentation was that in the long run our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are alive, and will have to deal with the consequences of our economic actions.

      But I should not have suggested – in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation – that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.

      My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation. It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life. As those who know me and my work are well aware, I detest all prejudice, sexual or otherwise.

      My colleagues, students, and friends – straight and gay – have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself. To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize.

      Niall Ferguson.”

      My position is extremely different from that of NF. I don’t give a hoot about the sex habits of people… except when individuals justify their thinking with that. I also think Keynes was right in 1944, at Bretton Woods (against $ as world currency; funny, Krugman on that one opposes Keynes… Difference? Krugman is part of the New York Wall Street empire sucking up money from mighty dollar, so he claims it doesn’t matter)

      Although, in partial context, it looks as if it is unjust to claim ‘in the long run….’ the way I did, it’s way more justified when one reads “The Economic Consequences of Peace”. Keynes’ racism (against Poles, and other non-Germans) is very short sighted. The critique, or, rather, condemnation of racism has everything to do with the EXTREMELY LONG RUN, well before we were born, well after we are dead. See the essay on the French win in world cup and attending racial and racist comments by racist critters out there…


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      There are also various interpretations of the quote. I know that Lord Keynes was dismissive in some writings some few as “philosophical”, of the long term… Thus explaining (hopefully) in part his racism against Slavs, & preference of Germans.


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