Researchers just re-created a 50-year-old childhood study with a fascinating twist.

You might have heard of the Stanford prison experiment. But have you heard of the Stanford marshmallow experimentation?

The marshmallow experimentation was a fascinating examine conducted by researchers in the late 1960 s and early ‘7 0s to test kids’ ability to delay gratification.

3- to 5-year-old children were placed in a room with a marshmallow or other treat in front of them and told that, yes, they could eat it if they wanted. But if they could just wait 15 minutes or so, they could have a second marshmallow or a larger treat.

Dramatization. Photo via iStock.

In the original survey, a little less than half of the children were able to hold out for the bigger reward . Follow-up surveys done on these children found that the ability to delay gratification was correlated with better exam scores, chores, and overall success later in life.

Now, 50 -some years later, researchers have re-created the famous marshmallow experiment with one interesting twist.

The new survey out of University of Osnabrck in Germany presented a similar exam to two separate groups of 4-year-old children: one group of Westernized infants, from Germany, and another group from Cameroon( their people are known as the Nso ).

The researchers knew that parenting styles in the two places were vastly different and wanted to see what effect that had on self-regulation and emotions.

What they found amazed them, even though the researchers were already well versed in the cultural differences.

The Nso children were far more able to delay their gratification. Not merely that, it seemed to be easy for them.

The German kids performed about as well as the ones in the original 1960 s analyze in other words, under half of them “passed.” On the other hand, about 70% of the Nso children held out for the second treat.

For many of them, it seemed to be no sweat.

Lead researcher Bettina Lamm writes in an email: “In German kids you can virtually see how they opposed the temptation, when they were moving around, talking or singing to themselves, playing with parts of their body or even with the sweet. Nso children only sat there and wait, they do not show much motor activity and scarcely demonstrate any emotions, and some of them even fell asleep.”

Waiting for an extra marshmallow turned out to be a piece of cake.

Cameroonian parenting is known to be more strict than in the Western world. That may help explain the difference, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Nso children are involved very early to control their feelings, especially negative emotions, ” Lamm told NPR. “Moms tell their children that they don’t expect them to scream and that they truly want them to learn to control their emotions.”

The Nso children aren’t generally encouraged to make their needs and passions known, she said. They’re created to trust that mom will give them everything they need when they need it.

( This could also be a factor in the study’s outcomes: How much do the kids trust that the researcher will actually bring them the second marshmallow ?)

Does that mean parents everywhere should start cracking down and getting tough? Not so fast .

“Raising Western children in the Nso manner would not work, ” Lamm stresses. “Maybe, it would support the development of self-regulation( which we do not know for sure, because of the different surrounding ), but we can be sure that children raised that way in the Western context would absence several competencies that are very important in the Western world( e.g. independence and uniqueness ). “

If there’s a takeaway here for Western mothers, it’s this: Teaching our children a little self-control is a great thing, but it’s not the only skill that matters in our world.

In other terms, it’s not the end of the world if your child merely wants to eat the damn marshmallow.

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