One of my favourite studies is called The Marshmallow Test. If you are not familiar, it was a test done in the ’60s that tested 600 children but putting them individually in a room and placed a marshmallow in front of them. The child was told they could either eat the one marshmallow or wait 15 minutes and the person doing the testing would give them another marshmallow so they can have two.
The theory coming from this being those children who were able to wait longer for twice the marshmallow had better self control and displays the ability to delay gratification. Basically they could restrain impulse.
The test was redone a few years ago in the same structure, adding an encounter with an adult who would offer art supplies. Some of the adults were reliable to bring supplies and some weren’t. The outcome supporting the idea that children could actually be using rational decision making, if they had an unreliable encounter, it would likely happen again so there was no need to wait for the second marshmallow.
The takeaway I got from this is empathy.
Honestly, I read the report on the original, which is awesome (if I believed I could retire studying sociology or anthropology for my career, I would leave advertising yesterday). And that is what I got from it. I do have good self control and honestly felt like that is something I harvested, I gained. Perhaps I did. But I also looked at people who couldn’t have it, as, I don’t know, less strong? Because it is hard, but some people seem to be able to handle it better than others.
And then I read this study revisited (in 2012, 50 years later) and I just got more from that. You never really know what the other person was raised with or dealt with. You don’t know when they are having a bad day or someone lied to them or let them down. I get that, you grab what you can then.
And that is fine too.
I really, really love hip hop for this. There is this great tone and feeling from songs, Changes being an obvious fit for this, that take a look at society and how we are viewing people and not allowing the full back story to come out to see why they did something, what they believe. Perhaps their logic and action makes more sense than others, or mine.