IN HIS “‘Odyssey”, Homer immortalized the idea of resisting temptation by having the protagonist tied to the mast of his ship, to h ear yet not succumb to the beau tiful, dangerous songs of the Sirens. Researchers have long been intrigued as to whether this ability to avoid, or defer, gratification is related to outcomes in life.
The best-known test is the “marshmallow” experiment, in which children who could refrain from eating the confection for 15 minutes were given a second one. Children who could not wait tended to have lower incomes and poorer health as adults. New research suggests that kids who are unable to delay rewards are also more likely to become criminals later
Educational attainment and patience are related either because patience helps students to do better or because schooling makes people more likely to postpone re·wards. Fortunately, there is evidence in support of the tattier theory.
Francisco Perez·Arce of the RAND Corporation, a think·tank, interviewed around 2,000 applicants for Mexican universities. The students had similar credentials but some obtained admission through a lottery to a university that did not charge tuition fees,whereas the rest had to apply elsewhere. As a result, a higher proportion of lottery·winners than losers went to college.
After a year, Mr. Perez-Arce found, that the lottery-winners were more patient than the losers overall. .Since the process was totally random, he concluded that higher education can make people place more weight on the future than those who drop out for a quick buck.