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Willpower endures

A person's ability to resist temptation stays constant throughout life, study suggests

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2:51pm, August 29, 2011

Forty years after succumbing to a mouth-watering marshmallow as a child, middle-aged adults still have a hard time resisting temptation, a new study finds. The results, published online August 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that willpower is stable over a person’s lifetime.

“I’m impressed,” says psychologist and neuroscientist Bernd Figner of Columbia University, who wasn’t involved in the experiments. “It really is a unique study.”

The experiment began in the late 1960s at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, where more than 500 4-year-olds were given the dreaded “marshmallow test.” The preschoolers sat in a room with only a sweet, gooey marshmallow to keep them company. A child could eat the single marshmallow, or hold out for 15 minutes to get two. Some kids couldn’t resist and gobbled the treat quickly, while others held out and doubled their reward.

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