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The Importance of Self Control: See How a Marshmallow Test Shaped Up Child Development Psychology!

Experts say, exercising self-control is the key to success.

Ever thought over, why you fail to resist and your willpower couldn’t stretch you longer, just when you need it most? Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test is one of the best studies to help people understand the importance of self-control. Mischel was a psychologist, who first set an ideology over self-control and its effects on a child’s future life. His test was later reserved as a touchstone of developmental psychology.

Children today, tend to lack self-control and its application in their lives that sometimes lead them to consequences in terms of poor self-esteem, drug abuse, social instability, poor-financial strength and behavioural disorders.

To know what the test results had been and how important is for children to adhere to self-control, this article elaborates the study below.

Case Study: Walter Mischel on his Marshmallow Experiment

In the late 1960s, Walter Mischel, a child psychologist set a rather simplistic experiment to test the child’s self-control and its downstream effects in his life. He left a group of children aged four to six in a room, with a bell and a single chosen treat (marshmallows). The child was asked to wait for 15 minutes and if he couldn’t, he can ring the bell.

If a child rang the bell, the psychologist would give the child a marshmallow. But if a child didn’t ring the bell and had waited for the set time (15 minutes), the psychologist would eventually come in a predetermined time and would treat the child with ‘two’ marshmallows.

The experiment itself was simple but the results had been revealing. The set of children, included in the experiment were tracked for a decade to observe changes in their lives. Mischel and his team have been able to sort it out, how profound were the effects, with a note of how practising self-control could add to our lives.

The Marshmallow Test Results:

At following up Mischel’s succession for over a decade, psychologists and researchers observed a few astonishing patterns. Keeping those preschoolers and their lifestyles in the account, the children that had resisted ringing the bell and believed in controlling their urge, rated higher on wealth, healths, and life-stability, are less likely to have developed drug addiction or committed any crime. However, children that had not shown any resistance or hesitation to demand their marshmallows before time, showed numerous shortfalls and lifestyle fluctuations.

Another famous yet more recent research was held in New Zealand that had followed 1,000 children for three decades, found similar results.

The most interesting statistic shows,“Only 10% of the children who were good at practicing self-control grew with low income jobs whereas, children for over 30% with poor self-control have low income jobs”.

The outcome of the research in New Zealand shows, children scoring higher self-control have higher self-esteem, better relationships and professional skills with maximum optimal social or emotional responses, and are found less likely in binge-eating or alcohol abuse.

Why is self-control so important?

Psychologists agree on the fact that self-control is essential to happiness, satisfaction and success. To know why it is a vital part, we need to dig deeper.

It isn’t tough to understand the role of self-control in becoming successful or an acceptable entity of society. In simple terms, sitting in a boring lecture for hours will lead to a good degree; you are taught and asked to go gradual – from internship to a professional level, without quitting in the run.

Practising self-control has visible effects while developing a child’s psychology. It helps in strengthening up the willpower to work for major goals and helps in sticking up the regime, without surrendering for short-term gratification. When you start believing what self-control could earn you, it is easier to practice it. It is more like, “Watch the wood, not the trees”. Counting on trees will stress you as you go higher, seeing wood as a whole would ease up the cut.

What get you more self-control?

It wouldn’t be unfair to say you share a slice of self-control (whether good or bad) with genetics and a larger proportion with early childhood training. For instance, the study says, “Children whose parents are frequent movers (from one house to another) are less likely to show resistance or apply self-control and tend to lack discipline. The major reason for this is, they have been automated to short-term solutions with a quick response to it. And that’s where they skip practising self-control whereas; having focused on long-term planning and abstract rewards are much more fruitful in terms of life stability and success.

Dr Kentaro Fujita, a psychologist at a University of Ohio State says, “One of the best ways to learn or practice self-control is to set actual rewards with abstract reasoning”.

There is no age to learn self-control, however, the sooner you start, the better it is. To get a better share of life, practising self-control could do wonders. People who lack self-control tend to concentrate on their instinctive desires (I want to eat marshmallows now). But if you think rationally, you can easily differentiate between the responses of instant gratification and long-term success.

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Madiha Ahmed
Madiha Ahmed
Madiha (Yusuf) Ahmed is an Independent Journalist, ideally reports technology updates, social happenings and covers features. Professionally, she is serving as a Manager Content in a Digital Agency and specialises in Content Curation, Strategy and Marketing.

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