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Have children gotten worse at their ability to delay gratification? We analyze the past 50 years of data on the Marshmallow test of delay of gratification. Children must wait to get two preferred treats; if they cannot wait, they only get one. Duration for how long children can delay has been associated with a host of positive life outcomes. Here we provide the first evidence on whether children’s ability to delay gratification has truly been decreasing, as theories of technology or a culture of instant gratification have predicted. Before analyzing the data, we polled 260 experts in cognitive development, 84% of who believed kids these days are getting worse or are no different. Contrary to this prediction, kids these days are better able to delay gratification than they were in the past, corresponding to a fifth of a standard deviation increase in ability per decade.
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