Can you predict anything about a person’s critical thinking ability based on their credit score? According to a new study, researchers have found that individuals with lower credit scores have a greater need for immediate gratification which impacts decision making.
Now, in these economic times, many people who are unemployed/underemployed are struggling to pay their mortgages, student loans, and credit cards, so I’m not implying that all individuals with low credit scores lack effective decision making ability or are going on reckless shopping sprees. Sometimes life happens.in and choose to put off paying the bill. The lack of impulse control can create a vicious cycle for credit card debt.
Specifically, though in this study the researchers:
…asked participants if they would accept a small and immediate reward over a potentially larger reward they had to wait for. After being allowed to access the credit scores of these participants, the researchers found a correlation between higher credit scores and people who were willing to accept a long-term benefit. Additionally, impatient participants who accepted rewards with immediate gratification were found to have lower credit scores.
While the study didn’t address other life areas where impatient decision making can have negative effects, I think we could make an argument that cheating on a spouse, quitting a job without planning for a new one, and eating unhealthy foods would fit the same decision making framework. Each of these choices are based on satisfying an immediate need without regard for long term effects.
Teaching deferred gratification is an important life skill all teachers and parents should address at a very young age. The ability to exhibit self-control and delay immediate satisfaction has been linked to intellectual abilities and academic success. There was a long-term research study conducted in 1972 at Stanford University called the “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment” where researchers offered children (ages four to six) 1 marshmallow but promised that if they could wait 15 minutes to eat it, they would be given 2 marshmallows. In a follow up study, they found that those participants who were able to delay gratification scored on average 250 points higher on the SAT, were less moody, more cooperative, more confident, less envious, and worked well under pressure.
If you’ve never seen a video of these children participating in the modern day Marshmallow Experiment, they are worth watching. Seeing a 4 or 6 year old stare down a marshmallow or stroke it gently while trying to resist the temptation to eat it is hilarious! Here are two videos showing the children trying to avoid eating the marshmallow:
The adult parody version is pretty funny too:
What are your personal strategies for self control and delaying instant gratification?
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.