Lessons from Marshmallows - How Your Reliability Makes a Difference
In 1972, Stanford University conducted what has become the famous “Marshmallow Study”. Children sat at a table and a marshmallow was placed in front of them. They were told that if they were able to refrain from eating that marshmallow for 15 minutes, they would receive a second marshmallow.
It was a study geared to measure self-control and delayed gratification.
A team from the University of Rochester recently performed a similar study and added a new variable: whether or not children experienced a reliable environment ahead of the study. Some children were told prior to the study that they were going to receive a new art kit. Then the researcher appeared and told them that had been a mistake; there were no new art kits. That was the “unreliable” setting. Children who did receive the art kit that had been promised were those in the “reliable” environment.
Kids in that reliable environment did a better job delaying gratification in an immediately performed “Marshmallow Test”. In fact, they were able to wait four times longer.
Leaders and parents, the ramifications are obvious: do young people find us reliable? If they experience the adults in their environment as reliable, they are more likely to make wise (and tough) choices!
What makes someone reliable? In this study, it was doing what you said you were going to do. For me in my family, that means that if I say I’m going to be home at 5 pm, I am. If I say I’m going to play games after dinner with my kids, I do.
What does it mean for you to be reliable as a parent or leader?
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