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Defying Assumptions about Instant Gratification

Posted by Lisa Cunningham | September 25, 2018 | Comments (0)

Could it be possible that in today’s world of instant gratification, children are able to delay gratification longer than the children of the 1960s? New research points to “yes.”

“Although we live in an instant gratification era where everything seems to be available immediately via smartphone or the internet, our study suggests that today’s kids can delay gratification longer than children in the 1960s and 1980s,” said University of Minnesota psychologist Stephanie M. Carlson, Ph.D., lead researcher on the study. “This finding stands in stark contrast with the assumption by adults that today’s children have less self-control than previous generations.”

To arrive at the first conclusion, Carlson and her colleagues analyzed results from the original marshmallow test in the 1960s, as well as replications conducted in the 1980s and 2000s.

The original marshmallow test, which was led by Walter Mischel, Ph.D. from Stanford University, involved a series of experiments in which three-to-five-year-olds were offered the choice of immediately eating one treat, like a marshmallow, or waiting (up to 15 minutes) for a larger treat. From behind a one-way mirror, researchers watched to see how long the children would wait.

To arrive at Carlson’s second conclusion (assumption of adults), researchers used an online survey to ask 358 U.S. adults how long they thought children today would wait for a larger treat compared to those in the 1960s. Approximately 72 percent thought children today would not wait as long, and 75 percent believed that today’s children would have less self-control.

Defying expectations, children from the studies in the 2000s waited an average of two additional minutes longer than those from the 1960s study, and an additional one minute longer than those from the 1980s studies. Researchers took into account a number of factors including geography, sex and socioeconomic status of the children, and ensured that none of the children in more recent studies were on ADHD medication. None of these factors seemed to influence the ability to wait.

For coaches, these results teach an important lesson about judgment. What you may assume about a certain type of client—for example, a Millennial—may not necessarily be true. Try to remain non-judgmental with every client; our perceptions could hamper their progress and even influence perceptions of themselves.

Lisa Cunningham headshot

Lisa Cunningham

Lisa Cunningham is ICF’s Social Media Specialist, as well as a freelance writer and social media consultant. She holds a master’s degree in professional writing with a focus on web content development from Chatham University and a bachelor’s degree in English writing and communication from the University of Pittsburgh.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

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