The more science learns about human beings, the more puzzling we seem to be. For years, the assumption has been that the ability to postpone gratification was a better predictor of future success than IQ. (“Headlines,” by Simon Makin, Scientific Mind, March/April 2012, pg. 8) The notion stems from psychological studies done in the 1960S where a child was given a marshmallow and told if she waited 15 minutes without eating it, she’d be given a second.
New studies, are debunking the conclusions drawn by that earlier research, however. Whether one should eat the marshmallow or wait depends on circumstances, namely trust. Can we trust the person who promises a second marshmallow? If experience has taught us that waiting is a gamble, we’ll eat the marshmallow we’ve got rather than hope for a second. The decision isn’t necessarily one of self-control but of how we feel about our environment or the person making the promise. Eating now or eating later is a question of weighing the odds.
As interesting and revelatory as this new finding may be, psychological studies are a classic examples of how our assumptions about the world color our view of it. If we assume self-control is an internal trait like the fear of falling, we draw one set of conclusions. If we believe externals are a factor, we get another. What we think we know about ourselves is as squishy the marshmallow. If we really understood how malleable the “facts” of our world are, we probably wouldn’t get out of bed.
On that note, readers with an adventurous mind might enjoy my latest novel, Trompe l’Oeil. The illusions are all there to explore.
(Courtesy of http://www.dailymail.co.uk)s