Archive for July, 2009


Tell me a story

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

My 4-year-old, Peter, took part in a study at the University of Minnesota yesterday having to do with delayed gratification in children. Apparently, there is some evidence that children with the ability to delay gratification at a young age tend to be more successful later in life. So, in this particular study, they were looking to see if they could somehow influence that ability, to improve it.

In the basic exercise, the researcher would say something along the lines of, “You can have one piece of candy now, or, if you wait, you can have four,” and see which the child picked. They did this various times, using candy, stickers, and toy cars for different scenarios. (Peter cleaned up, by the way, thank you very much.)

In trying to influence the child’s choice, they tried two different methods: one was to tell the child directly (“I think you should wait so you can get all four pieces of candy.”); the other was to tell them a story in which it was clear that waiting was better. The results? In what will surely be no surprise to any parent, telling the child directly doesn’t work. Telling stories, on the other hand, does. (more…)

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