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Kids & Marshmallows Revisited

October 13, 2011

An update on a landmark experiment probes the neurological roots of delayed gratification.



A new look at self-control.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In a landmark psychological study, preschoolers were given a choice: they could eat one treat now, or two treats later.  Kids who could wait longer had fewer behavioral problems and higher SAT scores years later.  Recently, Stanford psychologist Ian Gotlib and his colleagues studied some of the same people, now in their forties.  The subjects’ relative willpower was still consistent with their four-year-old selves, and that related to differences in brain activity.

IAN GOTLIB (Stanford University):

The differences in activation seem to be in the areas of the brain that are responsible for the regulation of emotions that are responsible for cognitive-executive control.


The most impulsive subjects not only had lower activity in the control centers, but stronger responses in the emotional centers.  The results suggest that people with addictions or self-control issues may also feel pleasure more intensely than others. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.