The Grand Chocolate Willpower Experiment

I read about a fascinating experiment on Momisodes (thanks to Angela from mommy bytes who was guest posting while Sandy was on vacation).

The basic idea is that toddlers learn the concept of willpower around the age of four. And, by testing this willpower (with the use of some sort of chocolate), you MAY be able to predict their future success in life.

Sounds sketchy, eh?

Well, the scientist Walter Mischel is the person who stumbled upon these findings, and he gave this fascinating interview on public radio about his findings.

(I used to think my husband was either an old man or a geek for liking Public Radio, but I have come love it through his exposing me to it. So I’m now either an old man or a geek also.)

Back to Walter. He only set out to test his theory that willpower develops around four years old. He did this by setting a child in a room with a cookie, and telling them that they could eat it now, but if they DIDN’T eat it, when he got back, they could have TWO cookies. He would then leave the room for twenty minutes, all while watching the kids on video. He was able to pretty well prove that four was the age of the development of willpower, and that some children definitely had more than others.

However, he found out more than he ever meant to.

He kept up with the 500 participants until current day (they’re now in their forties), and was able to see startling evidence that the children who could resist temptation at four years old actually did MUCH better in many areas of life. They had better grades in school, made over 200 points higher scores on the SAT, went to better colleges, got better jobs, and were even skinnier than the kids who could not overcome the temptation of the cookie.

His basic point is that if a person is able to have willpower to delay immediate gratification for future better things, you will do better in life. And the trait of willpower may be hardwired as early as four years old.

Just a theory, of course.

So, although she’s not four yet, I found this experiment so fascinating that I had to try it on Ali. I mean, she’s a pretty logical kid. She’ll be able to do it, right?

I didn’t have cookies, but I had chocolate. And I decided that I would not leave the room for 20 minutes (she would come find me long before that period of time elapsed), but maybe more like one or two minutes.

So here’s how our “game” went:


So much for even leaving the room.

I’m going to wholeheartedly blame my findings in this experiment on the fact that she’s two and not four years old.

However, she will most definitely be tested again in two years.

How about you? Any takers out there to run your kids through the experiment? What do you think about Walter’s theories?