Sunday, September 21, 2008
Marshmallows and instant gratification: Ether 12:4-5
4 Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
5 And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.
(Book of Mormon | Ether 12:4 - 5)
These verses make me think about the importance of delayed gratification. We live in a society of instant gratification and disposable resources. Make no mistake, I like the fact that if I want to know something I can type a few keystrokes in Google and get an answer. That access to knowledge wasn’t available just a short while ago.
However, that ability to get whatever we want so quickly has led to a "me first" mentality. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die, is the mantra for most of society. If it feels good do it.
These two short verses remind me that sometimes I need to put aside my instant gratification with a “hope for a better world…”
I remember hearing about a study performed several years ago about children, marshmallows, and future SAT scores. Since I too like instant gratification at times, I went into Google, and typed “marshmallows and SAT scores.”
Here’s what I found:
In one of the most amazing developmental studies ever conducted, Walter Michel of Stanford created a simple test of the ability of four year old children to control impulses and delay gratification. Children were taken one at a time into a room with a one-way mirror. They were shown a marshmallow. The experimenter told them he had to leave and that they could have the marshmallow right then, but if they waited for the experimenter to return from an errand, they could have two marshmallows. One marshmallow was left on a table in front of them. Some children grabbed the available marshmallow within seconds of the experimenter leaving. Others waited up to twenty minutes for the experimenter to return. In a follow-up study (Shoda, Mischel, & Peake, 1990), children were tested at 18 years of age and comparisons were made between the third of the children who grabbed the marshmallow (the "impulsive") and the third who delayed gratification in order to receive the enhanced reward ("impulse controlled").
The third of the children who were most impulsive at four years of age scored an average of 524 verbal and 528 math. The impulse controlled students who scored 610 verbal and 652 math! This astounding 210 point total score difference on the SAT was predicted on the basis of a single observation at four years of age! The 210 point difference is as large as the average differences between that of economically advantaged versus disadvantaged children and is larger than the difference between children from families with graduate degrees versus children whose parents did not finish high school! At four years of age gobbling a marshmallow now v. waiting for two later is twice as good a predictor of later SAT scores than is IQ.
Might I suggest that we’re all 4 year olds? We’re enduring our time where we’ve been told that if we resist the urge to indulge our baser desires for just a short while that we will be richly rewarded for doing so. If we deny ourselves all ungodliness and place our trust and faith in Him who is mighty to save, we will be blessed.
So what do you think? Should we just eat our marshmallows now, or should we hold off for a bit for the promise and sure hope of better marshmallows down the road?