In the hive of festive activity, it’s easy to forget your financial goals and spend more than you planned. Next thing you know, it’s the New Year and the long month of January, with its all too familiar financial hangover, is stretched out before you.
You may have heard about the ‘Marshmallow Test’, a series of experiments conducted by Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel in the 1960s with nursery-school children to explore the relationship between patience and reward. The children were each given a marshmallow with the promise that if they could resist eating it for 15 minutes, they would receive a second marshmallow. As expected, some didn’t wait long to eat the marshmallow, while others were able to delay their gratification to receive the bigger reward.
The long-term results of the tests were fascinating. When researchers followed up with the children years later, they found that those who had delayed their gratification ultimately fared better in life: They were more competent, had achieved higher final scores in high school and even had a lower body mass index than the children who had immediately eaten the marshmallow. The study has been replicated across the world, and while some experiments, which used a more diverse group of children, found that social and economic background can have a considerable influence on a child’s ability to delay gratification, the Marshmallow Test remains a good illustration of the benefits of self-control.