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The Marshmallow Experiment

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JP Rushton

Richard Lynn

L:inda Gottfredson

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1300 words

This is one of my favorite studies. It proves a genetic basis for the ability to delay gratification, as well as racial differences in the ability to delay gratification.

In the late 60s and early 70s is when these experiments took place. Walter Mischel who is now a psychologist at Columbia University, thought of a groundbreaking study to see the ability to delay gratification. Taking preschoolers, the researchers presented the child with treats such as marshmallows. The child was then told the researchers had to step out of the room for a few minutes. Before they left, they were told that if they didn’t eat any of the treats, they would get an extra treat. If they couldn’t wait, they were told to ring a bell and the researcher came back and they were only allowed one treat.

There were interesting ways in which some of the children who were able to prevent themselves from eating it. Some of them pushed it further away from them, turning around in their chair and singing songs to themselves to distract themselves.

He eventually developed a framework to explain the ability to delay gratification called a hot and cold system, to see explain why willpower fails.

The cool system is the thinking system, the cognitive one. Reminding you that you will get a reward if you wait. The hot system is the impulsive system, making you want it now and not wanting to wait for the other treat.

Years later, another researcher was able to track down 59 of the participants in the study. They then tested them again, and their self-control was the same.

Some important things were found from the studies. It predicts BMI 30 years later in preschoolers, they predict SAT scores, educational achievement, as well as significant correlations being found between seconds of delay time and cognitive and academic confidence and ability to cope with stress and frustration in adolescence.

MRI scans were also given to them where they were presented with tempting stimuli, those with low self-control showed differing brain patterns in comparison to those with higher self-control. The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that makes choices, was more active in subjects with higher self-control. The ventrial seratum, which is thought to process desires and rewards, was more active in those with low self-control.

We see in this study that brain structures are involved in the ability to delay gratification, as well as psychopathic disorders. The hippocampus, which is associated with memory, and the nucleus accumbens, associated with pleasure, work together in making critical decisions of this type, in which time plays a role. Blacks have a smaller hippocampus, as well as nucleus accumbens due to having a smaller overall brain in comparison to whites and Asians.

In one study done in the 60s on East Indians and Negroes on the island of Trinidad, a major personality difference was expressed between the 2 groups. Many people said that the difference was that negroes are impulsive and would settle for next to nothing if they could get it right away, as well as not working or preferring to work and they preferred to accept smaller things immediately. But the Indians were able to deprive themselves and able to postpone immediate gain for a bigger gain in the future. The black took the smaller reward if they could get it right away whereas the Indian waited if they could get a bigger reward in the future.

They also say at the end of the paper that this has implications not only for the 2 ethnicities in the study but for further research for studies on relationships between personality variables and this type of behavior in our own culture.

They have also done this test on blacks and whites in the Caribbean as well as the US multiple times and are sick of doing it because the results are always the same.

Now that we have a background on the delay of gratification as well as some a study that shows how blacks fare in it, let’s see some real world examples.

We all know that blacks rape the most. They kill the most. They rob the most. They assault the most. All of that has to do with thinking in the now, ability to delay gratification. The gratification of them of raping, killing, robbing or assault. Because they have a smaller brain than we do, they’re not as developed in the areas of the brain that we are (which has to do with archaic hominid admixture in Africans). That leads to them only thinking in the now and not thinking about the future. That’s one of the causes for black over representation in murder and all other crime stats despite being 13 percent of the US population. They don’t think before they act, right when it pops into their head they act on it. With their low IQ on top of that, along with the smaller, less developed brain, leads to all of the impulsive behaviors that show itself in the crime stats on all the countries where blacks are the majority.

Ability to delay gratification is clearly largely genetic. I would reason that since Africans evolved in a hot climate where food is readily available, they didn’t need to do the planning ahead that Europeans and East Asians had to do. With the groups who weathered the Ice Age, they had to conserve their food and save it. This lead to an evolutionary effect over time, ability to delay gratification, along with high IQ and more altruistic behavior towards the group.

It’s the opposite in Africans and those who evolved in hotter climates closer to the equator. There was really no need to delay gratification for things such as food and other things of that nature because they didn’t evolve in the Ice Age.

This same trend holds true for all peoples who evolved close to the equator. So ability to delay gratification is correlated with ancestry, as well as skin color.

Another cool thing I just came across the other day is Western Europe, state formation, and genetic pacification. It says that pacification proceeded slowly from the 5th to 11th centuries, because of the Church’s opposition to the death penalty as well as belief in a man’s right to solve personal disputes as he saw fit. They began to dissolve in the 11th century with a consensus that the wicked should die so that the good may live in peace. Courts imposed the death penalty more often in the middle of the Middle Ages and by then they were putting to death .5 to 1 percent of men that generation, with the same amount dying at the scene of the crime or getting killed in prison awaiting trial.

The homicide rate plummeted from the 14th to 20th centuries. By then, most murdered were committed due to jealousy, intoxication or extreme stress. The decline in violence is attributed to more strict punishment as well as long term effects of cultural conditioning. Though, the new cultural environment may have selected against propensities for violence.

That is clearly the people with lack of ability to delay gratification being culled from society, which proved it with its murder drop in the 14th to 20th centuries.

In Sweden, those with a certain MAOA allele are said to commit between 5 and 10 percent of crime.

Sexual offending run in families.

Those are clear things that show a lack of ability to delay gratification, and as I have shown here it is genetic.

Those that live in/evolved in hotter climates have a higher propensity to commit crimes and other negative things to due certain pressures that they didn’t have to go through, leading to the long list of things that all strongly correlate with each other due to the reason (evolution and hot climate) why we are all different from each other.

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3 Comments

  1. Will Tolen says:

    this is exactly correct. the other thing is the blacks can not foresee NEGATIVE consequences either. they do the crime, and don’t even consider they might get caught and have to be punished. when the police come, they run (rodney king) not anticipating that even if they get away now, they will soon be caught and be in even more trouble. the reason for this is a lack of evolution. they react without thinking, like animals do.

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    • racerealist says:

      A perfect example is how they say ‘I didn’t do it’ or how the mothers always day their kid didn’t do it. It’s a clear lack of abstract thought.

      All of those things correlate with each other because of evolution.

      As you said, when the police come they run. Because they are only thinking of the now, not getting caught. They do think into the future as they’re running, but it’s a future that won’t happen.

      They think outlandish ideas of the future which simply aren’t possible.

      Right. A animals have no concept of the future, only the here and now.

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  2. […] thought for one. Those with low IQ have a lack of ability to think of what their actions will do. Along with lack of ability to delay gratification, paired with high testosterone and low IQ, that is the cause for higher than average crime in the […]

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