Friday, October 12, 2012

The Marshmallow Study Revisited

I found the article and video below on one of my sociology lists. It calls into question the interpretations made by Walter Mischel and his marshmallow study connecting self-control in children with later success in life.  I've not read the original study, but I'm assuming it was a correlational study in terms of the connection between the ability to distract oneself when a child and later success in life. The doctoral candidate in the video raises some important questions about the role of social environment on decision making.

A colleague (who wished not to have the name posted here) posted this quote and questions on the TEACHSOC listserv on 10/12/2012.  How do children understand or not understand that it's in their best interests to delay gratification?  The replication in the video suggests that there are other trust factors that may go into the decision making of these children and people in general--extending into the sociological realm.
Suddenly, this potentially has much larger implications - for example, how members of a given race/social class may perceive the efforts directed towards them when they've been victimized (or even just let down) by such efforts before. For example, why trust that the police when they've done violence to members of your community? Or why trust a government agency's new policies when the same entity have wronged you in the past? Etc.
This kind of sociological thinking and raising of questions as to the factors can help us as psychology teachers examine human behavior and perhaps make sure we do not fall into oversimplification of conclusions and ideas.

The article is at this link:

posted by Chuck Schallhorn

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