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It’s a question Walter Mischel made famous when he posed it to Stanford nursery school kids in the 1960s. The experiment in delayed gratification has been debated ever since. Mischel, a reformed smoker, says it can be liberating to master self-control. “If we have the skills to allow us to make discriminations about when we do or don’t do something, when we do or don’t drink something, and when we do and when we don’t wait for something, we are no longer victims of our desires,” he explained to The New Yorker many years later. Explore what it’s like to delay a treat. See if you can delight in the anticipation. It will take some practice, but it will be worth the wait!
Y. Shoda, W. Mischel, P. Peake, “Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies from Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions,” Developmental Psychology 26 (1990): 978–986.
Stephanie M. Carlson et al., “Cohort Effects in Children’s Delay of Gratification,” Developmental Psychology 54 (2018): 1395–1407.
Maria Konnikova, “The Struggles of a Psychologist Studying Self-Control,” The New Yorker, October 9, 2014.