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Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test

By The Atlantic

Affluence—not willpower—seems to be what’s behind some kids' capacity to delay gratificationRead full story

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  • Max Lockie
    Max LockiePlatform Editor at Quartz

    rich kids pass the marshmallow test because they get marshmallows all the time, so they don’t care, and poor kids can’t pass it because they’re hungry

  • Christina Passarella
    Christina Passarella Project Manager

    As we learn more about the effects that poverty, especially extreme poverty with all its many stressors, has on health, emotional wellbeing, and future odds of success, I think we’ll see more of these generally widely accepted studies either being debunked or yielding results that allow old ideas to be replaced. I grew up in relative poverty and while I was able to overcome my early life in significant ways, I still find myself splurging on payday or waiting till then to buy necessities even though

    As we learn more about the effects that poverty, especially extreme poverty with all its many stressors, has on health, emotional wellbeing, and future odds of success, I think we’ll see more of these generally widely accepted studies either being debunked or yielding results that allow old ideas to be replaced. I grew up in relative poverty and while I was able to overcome my early life in significant ways, I still find myself splurging on payday or waiting till then to buy necessities even though my bank account is comfortably padded. It’s hard to get beyond the old way of thinking and I’m wondering now about the various other ways I’m likely affected without really knowing.

  • Patricia Lincourt
    Patricia LincourtSocial Worker

    In other words it is less about intrinsic impulsivity and more about circumstance. This reassessment a well accepted conclusion from a famous social science experiment should give us pause. Studies about impact of cocaine on babies born to moms who had used cocaine during pregnancy, also ultimately found almost no difference between these children and their peers not exposed to cocaine once poverty was controlled for.

    The consequence of these findings should lead to more investment in young people

    In other words it is less about intrinsic impulsivity and more about circumstance. This reassessment a well accepted conclusion from a famous social science experiment should give us pause. Studies about impact of cocaine on babies born to moms who had used cocaine during pregnancy, also ultimately found almost no difference between these children and their peers not exposed to cocaine once poverty was controlled for.

    The consequence of these findings should lead to more investment in young people and their families who live in poverty. It is easier to believe that poorer performance is caused by personal flaws or chosen behaviors. The real test is how this finding impacts policy.

  • Max Kutner
    Max KutnerJournalist covering FBI, DOJ, Russia probes

    I recall learning about Walter Mischel's marshmallow test in Psych. 101 in college. These new findings sound significant.

  • Everything we know about the marshmallow test needs re-evaluation...

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