In the 60s, psychologist Walter Mischel from Stanford University designed the Marshmallow Test: 650 4-year olds were individually given one marshmallow and were left alone in a room. The pre-schooler was told that he or she could either eat it right away BUT, if they waited 15 minutes and didn't eat the marshmallow, they'd receive a second.
This test was designed to measure willpower in delaying gratification.
It was found, based on questionnaires sent to the parents, teachers and academic advisers of the former pre-schoolers, now high schoolers, that those that were unable to delay gratification (that ate the marshmallow right away) had more behavioural problems, had trouble paying attention and maintaining friendships and had lower SAT scores.
The results are based on self-reported information therefore subject to error. However, Mischel, now at Columbia, is attempting to recruit the original subjects to get fMRIs done in an attempt to identify the brain regions responsible for self-control. Wouldn't that be amazing?
Watching the kids trying so very hard to delay gratification is hilarious! This is a re-enactment: