Millennials have been branded as a thankless generation; with cheap news headlines such as ‘Today’s generation demands instant gratification’. Statements like this lead the public to have a very sad and dismal view of the future when we come to inherit it. The main point behind this week’s blog is to discuss the importance of gratification in the classroom with today’s youth as the focus.
Many people have heard of the ‘Delayed Gratification’ experiment, in which children were given a marshmallow, and faced with the decision to eat it now, or wait ten minutes while the tester leaves and then returns to the room, and receive a second marshmallow. Walter Mischel at Stanford University performed the original experiment in the 1960’s, and videos of the experiment are often replicated on YouTube (They’re always super cute, so here are some links 1 2). In Mischel’s original experiment, the children that were able to resist the urge to eat the marshmallow were interviewed in their adolescence, showing higher competency in academic performances, higher tolerances to stress, better planning and reasoning skills, and maintained that same self control demonstrated as kids.
If you scroll through the Internet you’ll occasionally come across some modern twists to Mischels experiment created to this to help students maintain motivation; such as placing gummy bears on your textbook at the start of each new paragraph, earning the right to eat them as you make progress through your readings.
Despite what is said about millennials in the news and by frustrated and tired parents, a meta-analysis by John Protzko says that children are capable of “more self-restraint than previous generations, with their ability to delay gratification having increased by about a minute per decade over the last 50 years” proving themselves to show more self control than prior participants in the ‘Marshmallow Test’ experiment (Protzko, 2017). These findings of increased self-regulation when it comes to gratification are congruent with Mischel’s adolescent follow-up in the original experiment, in which children today have an increase in average IQ, and cognitive abilities (Flynn, 1984).
Though Protzko is reluctant to make a suggestion in terms of correlation, I believe that one can be inferred from the obvious connection of more time studying leading to better grades. Children that can focus less on distractions (such as playing with friends) and more on doing homework usually incur better grades. In a 2004 study by Hefer Bembenutty and Stuart Karabenick, an Academic Delay of Gratification Scale (ADOGS) was created to determine how good a student was at postponing a “immediately available opportunity to satisfy impulses in favor of pursuing academic goals that are more valuable” (Bembenutty and Karabenick, 2004). Those who scored higher on ADOGs had better cognitive strategies such as: organization, rehearsal and elaboration. I think there can also be a connection drawn to the fact that kids now are receiving more homework than ever, sometimes up to three times as much homework than what is recommended (Pressman et al., 2015), thus resulting in longer study times which ultimately make the choice to indulge in gratifying and distracting activities less reasonable.
In conclusion, despite what the general populous thinks about millennials studies have shown that maybe we’re not so bad, and in fact, sometimes we’re better. 😉
Thanks for reading!
Flynn, J. R. (1984). The mean IQ of Americans: Massive gains 1932 to 1978. Psychological bulletin, 95(1), 29.
Bembenutty, H., & Karabenick, S. A. (2004). Inherent association between academic delay of gratification, future time perspective, and self-regulated learning. Educational psychology review, 16(1), 35-57.
Pressman, R. M., Sugarman, D. B., Nemon, M. L., Desjarlais, J., Owens, J. A., & Schettini-Evans, A. (2015). Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43(4), 297-313.
(John Protzko link; i was too lazy to put this into APA format) https://mfr.osf.io/render?url=https://osf.io/jghdm/?action=download%26mode=render