Some of you may be familiar with the marshmallow test developed by Walter Mischel, a Stanford University psychology professor. He took a group of nursery school children and offered them a choice. They could eat a marshmallow that was put in front of them, or, if they could wait until the researcher returned to the room, they would get a second marshmallow. Mischel hypothesized that children who could hold off eating the marshmallow had a capacity for “delayed gratification” and that this exercise of self-control would have all types of benefits for them over time. Many drew conclusions suggesting that children who could delay gratification had better health outcomes and success later in life.
These conclusions made sense to me until I listened to Celeste Kidd, a University of California at Berkeley professor of psychology, on a Hidden Brain podcast. Her take on the marshmallow test was that it wasn’t self-control that determined who would eat the marshmallow, but rather “the child’s expectations about how stable and reliable the world is.” In other words, could the children depend on the delivery of the second marshmallow?
Perhaps kids (and adults) who have support, whether family, community, or both, believe that their community will deliver on promises, not just for treats but also for opportunity and fairness. Maybe that support and the belief in the support are what lead to better health and success in life. I like the idea that support for each other is a key factor in success. Being supportive is something that we can all do easily. Hopefully, it will help others to be more successful in whatever endeavor they undertake and, of course, lead to that second marshmallow.
Take care and stay safe.
Be Mine: A Frank Bascombe Novel by Richard Ford
Over the course of four celebrated works of fiction and almost forty years, Richard Ford has crafted an ambitious, incisive, and singular view of American life as lived. Unconstrained, astute, provocative, often laugh-out-loud funny, Frank Bascombe is once more our guide to the great American midway.
Now in the twilight of life, a man who has occupied many colorful lives—sportswriter, father, husband, ex-husband, friend, real estate agent—Bascombe finds himself in the most sorrowing role of all: caregiver to his son, Paul, diagnosed with ALS. On a shared winter odyssey to Mount Rushmore, Frank, in typical Bascombe fashion, faces down the mortality that is assured each of us, and in doing so confronts what happiness might signify at the end of days.
In this memorable novel, Richard Ford puts on displays the prose, wit, and intelligence that make him one of our most acclaimed living writers. Be Mine is a profound, funny, poignant love letter to our beleaguered world.