Monday, October 22, 2012

If you love something... revisiting marshmallow study

Have you ever heard this famous saying, 'If you love someone set her/him free, if s/he comes back s/he is yours, if s/he doesn't, s/he never was'.
What if you love 'something' ;)

I think this advice can be used in other many other life contexts requiring ability for delaying gratification. One very famous study (Marshmallow study) looked at this ability itself in pre-school children (i.e. ability for self-control) and correlated it with their life success after almost 2 decades. The results got really famous and got quoted everywhere 
(In popular culture I read there is a movie with similar theme, 'Five year engagement' with heroine being an experimental psychologist :)

Some other studies have tried to teach ways for coping with the intensity of needs - in the experimental setting by hiding the marshmallow or thinking about the bigger gain (with moderate effects), and in the real life by developing self control and patience.
The largest effect came from a new study (published in journal Cognition), which manipulated environment's reliability. When in 2 earlier interactions the experimenter was reliable (reliably gave larger rewards after making the child wait), it resulted in child delaying the need to eat the marshmallow immediately and waiting for more later. They say children are sensitive and make rational decisions, especially here about the trustworthiness of the environment.  

And now I can't resist myself from extrapolating this result... to the realm of human & mystical ;)
I mean what about the 'trust' on not only other humans, but also on Universe and its laws, God etc? Especially when you see humans around you are helpless and there are larger forces which influences the outcome of any situation, in short-term, in long-term, or even cosmic-terms (think of belief in reincarnation). 
I guess this trust, this belief in 'just & fair' universal laws (such as that of 'karma', 'what goes around, comes around' etc) helps a large group of people to have self-control and tolerance for situations which are really miserable ...
We need to do a study :)

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