Ultimately, the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.
The marshmallow test isn’t the only experimental study that has recently failed to hold up under closer scrutiny. Some scholars and journalists have gone so far to suggest that psychology is in the midst of a “replication crisis.” In the case of this new study, specifically, the failure to confirm old assumptions pointed to an important truth: that circumstances matter more in shaping children’s lives than Mischel and his colleagues seemed to appreciate.
Emphasis, as always, is my own. It’s a great read.
The failed replication of the marshmallow test does more than just debunk the earlier notion; it suggests other possible explanations for why poorer kids would be less motivated to wait for that second marshmallow. For them, daily life holds fewer guarantees: There might be food in the pantry today, but there might not be tomorrow, so there is a risk that comes with waiting. And even if their parents promise to buy more of a certain food, sometimes that promise gets broken out of financial necessity.
Be thankful for what you have and strive to not necessarily have more but be better. Wealth. Not status.