The Marshmallow Test: 1960 vs 2018 - Deepstash

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This article is scientifically proven to improve your willpower

The Marshmallow Test: 1960 vs 2018

  • The most famous willpower experiment was the Marshmallow Test (on delayed gratification) that was developed by Prof Walter Mischel in the 1960s.
  • His results showed that those who managed to hold out were doing much better, had higher test scores, and lower BMIs.
  • This was contested by Prof Greg Duncan who in his experiment showed in his results that although the kids did better, but to a much smaller degree than the original research.
  • They also took account of the children's family background as a factor.

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Self-Control

 ... is the ability to regulate and alter responses in order to avoid undesirable behaviors, increase desirable ones, and achieve long-term goals.

Research on Self-Control
  • A 2011 survey found that 27 % of respondents identified a lack of willpower as the primary factor keeping them from reaching their goals. 
  • One study found that students who exhibited greater self-discipline had better grades, higher test scores, and were more likely to be admitted to a competitive academic program. 
  • The study also found that when it came to academic success, self-control was a more important factor than IQ scores.
  • A health study found that people who were rated as having high levels of self-control during childhood continued to have high levels of physical and mental health in adulthood.
  • Research has found that self-control is a limited resource. In the long-term, exercising self-control tends to strengthen it. 
Motivation and Monitoring

A lack of willpower is not the only factor that affects goal attainment.

  • There needs to be a clear goal and the motivation to change. Having an unclear or overly general goal and insufficient motivation can lead to failure.
  • You need to monitor your actions daily towards the achievement of the goal.
  • You need to have willpower.
Avoid willpower depletion

Building willpower is similar to building muscle. Continually exercising without giving yourself a break is not the best way to increase your strength or performance.

Do...

Use your imagination

Imagination can blunt the cravings that erode your self-control.

If you imagine lying on a peaceful beach, your body will respond by relaxing. If you imagine being late for an important meeting, your body will tense in response. Use this to your advantage in building willpower.

Think about something else

You can even use your imagination to keep unwanted thoughts away.

Every time that unwanted thought occupies your mind, consciously think about something pleasant instead.

Brute willpower doesn't work

So we should stop worshiping self-control and start thinking about diluting the power of temptation. Because resisting temptation either only has short-term gains or can be an outright failu...

Willpower is not the lucky ticket to success

Studies have shown that people that are really good at achieving their goals are not the ones that put more effort into exerting self-control in the face of temptations, but the ones that experience fewer temptations to start with.

People who are good at self-control
  • They actually enjoy the activities some of us resist (eating healthy, studying, exercising)
  • They have better decision-making habits
  • Some people just experience fewer temptations
  • It’s easier to have self-control when you’re wealthy - when you’re poor, the future is less certain.