When it comes to willpower, there are two very different camps among us: those who have it and those who start salivating at the mere sniff of cake in the staff office.
But contrary to popular belief, we have way more control over how we respond to temptation than we think. According to a new study, it’s all down to the company we keep.
As part of Walter Mischel’s ‘Marshmellow Test’ in the 1960’s, a group of children aged between three and five-years-old were given a single marshmallow and told they could eat it immediately, however, if they waited 10 minutes they would be rewarded with another.
Most of the participants saw this as a no-brainer and opted to wait for the larger helping Initially, this was credited to them either being good at distracting themselves or having more self-control to begin with. But a follow-up study in 1990 revealed that this group exhibited advanced traits of intelligence in their teens compared to those who ate the sweet straight away.
Expanding on these findings, researchers at the University of Colorado presented pre-schoolers with the same test. They then randomly assigned participants to one of two groups: those who waited for two marshmallows and those who didn’t.
They observed that the children were more likely to hold out if they were told their peers had too. In short: the behaviour of the group directly influenced how the child exercised self-control.
As a result, the researchers suggested that parents can help their kids’ build willpower by exposing them to role models who value this quality.