My mother thought artichokes, pomegranates, persimmons and mangos were very special foods. In season, she bought them for me. She let me know these were a treat for being good.She would give me a whole artichoke with small bowls of fresh lemon juice and melted butter. She let me take it to take it to my room and eat the leaves slowly while I studied. She let me play with a pomegranate for as long as it took to peel back the thin membrane and gently pick out the small ruby seeds. She showed me how to stand at the kitchen counter and peel a persimmon. She taught me to section a mango. My mother did not cook, but she knew a lot about fruit.I loved eating these foods. I felt beautiful and delicate and exotic. There was something sensual about the skill level required to handle these fruits and to slowly eat the little morsels. It was sophisticated and exquisite, and therefore so was I.A few days ago, I heard about the Stanford Marshmallow Test. In the 1960s, Dr. Walter Mischel, a Stanford psychologist, did this: He gave a 4 year old a marshmallow. He told the child she or he could eat it right away or wait and then get two marshmallows. He left the child alone with the marshmallow for 20 minutes. He did this with several hundred children. Then Stanford University followed them for 18 years and published the results. It turns out that the children who waited scored around 610 on the SAT verbal and 652 on the math. Those who grabbed and ate scored an average of 524 on the verbal and 528 on the math. When these kids were adolescents, Stanford researchers (Shoda, Mischel, and Peake) talked to their parents. The parents of the waiters rated their kids as more academically and socially competent, better at handling stress and frustration, more verbal, rational, attentive, and (Shoda’s word) planful.These results are part of a very complicated study that produced a bunch of papers. Abstracts are on the Shoda Lab wesbite. Daniel Goleman wrote about this. Wikipedia has articles on it.The Stanford scientists see this as a study in the ability to delay gratification. Clearly, that is a good ability to have. I don’t know whether it’s innate or whether you can teach it. I don’t know what other characteristics it’s related to, or which come first. It does seem that it can be strengthened and encouraged, the way we teach children to internalize other forms of good behavior.Now that I’m onto the Stanford study, I realize my mother’s idea of a reward was to allow me to take the marshmallow test. She taught me how to feel beautiful and elegant while I took it and to take pleasure in passing it.I did very well at school.And I love reading DH Lawrence’s poem, Figs.Sasha Bailey is the author of Torts, an intense, erotic novella, without graphic language. It is published by Eternal Press. Torts is available in ebook at Eternal Press, http://eternalpress.ca/. Torts is available in ebook and paperback at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/
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