A test which uses just a raisin and a plastic cup can predict the future academic success of a 20-month-old child, a new study finds.
The child is simply asked not to touch the raisin — which is placed under a cup — for 60 seconds.
Children who can resist the temptation of touching or eating the raisin go on to do better in school.
Infants born prematurely found it particularly difficult to resist touching the raisin.
Professor Dieter Wolke, one of the study’s authors, said:
“An easy, five-minute raisin game task represents a promising new tool for follow-up assessments to predict attention regulation and learning in preterm and term born children.
The results also point to potential innovative avenues to early intervention after preterm birth.”
The study began in 1985 and is still running.
It includes 558 children, some of whom were preterm and others born full term.
At just 20-months-old they were given the raisin test which assesses self-control.
At eight-years-old, the children were evaluated by a team of psychologists.
These tests looked at their attention and their academic achievement.
The results showed that the earlier the children were born, the lower their ability to pay attention.
Naturally, this also led to the preterm children having lower academic attainment.
Dr Julia Jaekel, the study’s lead author, said:
“This new finding is a key piece in the puzzle of long-term underachievement after preterm birth.”
Previous studies have also linked lower self-control to other negative outcomes, such as worse health and financial problems.
Unsurprisingly, those with lower self-control also have poorer job prospects,
Dr Michael Daly, who led a study published earlier this year which underlined the finding (Daly et al., 2015), said:
“Less self-controlled children may be particularly vulnerable to unemployment during times of economic downturn in later life.
Developing greater self-control in childhood, when the capacity for self-control is particularly malleable, could help buffer against unemployment during recessions and bring long-term benefits to society, through increased employment rates and productivity.
Preschool interventions, school programmes, and activities such as yoga and martial arts, and walking meditation exercises have all been shown to help develop better self-control and related abilities.”
The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics (Jaekel et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Child image from Shutterstock