The Education Issue: Believing self-control predicts success, schools teach coping

The Washington Post:

At first blush, Julia King’s middle-school classroom at D.C. Prep Public Charter School seems like any other middle school. Seventh-graders are busy reviewing math skills that they struggled with on a recent test. Walls are plastered with motivational posters: “Willpower, Improve, Never Give Up!” But look more closely. Something else is going on here — something that would have seemed more familiar to these 12- and 13-year-olds’ great-grandparents.

The study of self-control began in the 1960s with a marshmallow. The longitudinal Marshmallow Study (as it is still known) started at Stanford University and operated on a simple premise: Offer 653 4-year-olds a marshmallow, and tell them that if they waited to eat it after the researcher returned from leaving the room, then they could have a second one. If they couldn’t wait, they were stuck with just one.

The study in delayed gratification revealed that the marshmallow resisters scored much higher on their SATs and, as they aged, remained thinner, less prone to drug addiction and to divorce than their counterparts who couldn’t master their salivary glands.

A spate of studies appeared in the past three years or so, particularly the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, and, almost overnight, the stakes seemed higher. The Dunedin study — headed by Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, Duke University psychology and neuroscience professors — followed 1,000 New Zealanders over 32 years, beginning at birth. What researchers observed in this study, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011, was astounding.

Read the whole story: The Washington Post

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