To Snack or Not to Snack? Children's Self-Regulation in the Presence of Peers

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2019-04-23

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Abstract

As established by Walter Mischel through his famous “Marshmallow Task”, children around the age of 4 are able to put of a current, small reward in favor of a later and greater reward (Mischel & Mischel, 1983; Mischel, W. & Ebbesen, 1970; Mischel, 1972). However, little research has examined how children playing the game with peers changes how children delay gratification. The current study aims to explore how the opportunity for collaboration on a delay of gratification task affects children’s ability to do so. Forty-eight children (mean age 3.94 years) were presented with a delay of gratification task in which they were shown a peer over “Skype” (a pre-recorded video) and were told either that they were playing in parallel (independent outcomes) or that if either child ate their snack, both would not be able to obtain a second snack (interdependent outcomes). Counter to the hypotheses, children who were given the interdependent instructions were more successful when watching an impatient peer who did not delay gratification, and children who were given independent instructions were more successful when watching a patient peer. The results and future implications are discussed.

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Citation

Caplin, Phoebe (2019). To Snack or Not to Snack? Children's Self-Regulation in the Presence of Peers. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18383.


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