Forget Delayed Gratification: What Kids Really Need Is Cognitive Control

By now, we’ve all heard about the famous marshmallow test, in which 4-year-olds are told they can either have the juicy one in front of them now, or two later. The 40-year-old experiment, which has been replicated using a variety of enticements, purports to prove that children who can delay gratification will meet with the most success in life. But fighting off impulses is just one part of a much broader and more predictive mental skill, one that scientists call cognitive control or the ability to manage your attention.

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How Focus Changed my Thinking about Emotional Intelligence

In a second-grade classroom at a school in Spanish Harlem, the teacher told me that a child had come to class very upset: Someone she knew had been shot. The teacher then asked the students how many of them knew a person who had been shot—and every hand went up.

The children’s school was right next to a massive housing project were most of these children live. On top of the difficulties of such a childhood, half of the children in this class had “special needs,” ranging from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to the autism spectrum. I expected the atmosphere to be chaotic.»

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Stop that Bully

Skippy was the biggest bully in my grammar school. From a troubled home, Skippy was very unhappy, prone to fits of anger, and very, very mean to kids smaller than him.

I thought about Skippy when I read the headlines about the verdicts in the tragic bullying of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old from Ireland who hanged herself after being hounded by a small group of classmates—especially Kayla Narey, the girlfriend of Sean Mulveyhill, a popular senior Phoebe had briefly been romantically involved with.

There are three general types of bullying: troubled kids like Skippy, “mean girls” (and, of course, boys) in teen cliques like the one that victimized poor Phoebe Prince, and the garden variety of teasing and put-downs that pass among most all kids.»

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Can There be an Emotionally Intelligent Society?

I found an intriguing answer to this question when I made a recent visit to the picturesque seaside city of San Sebastian, capital of Gipuskoako, one of three provinces that make up the Basque area of Spain. San Sebastian also happens to be a world-class center for the development of social and emotional intelligence, due to an ambitious initiative to upgrade these human aptitudes not just in schools, but also in families, communities, and businesses.

Thirty to forty percent of schools there have curricula in social/emotional learning, and more are being phased in. There are emotional intelligence programs for parents and families, even communities.»

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Calm Down and Pay Attention: Cultivating Emotional Intelligence for Kids

The scene: a first-grade classroom in a Manhattan school. Not just any classroom, this one has lots of Special Ed students, who are very hyperactive. So the room is whirlpool of activity, some a bit frenzied. The teacher tells the kids that they’re going to listen to a CD. The kids quiet down a bit. Then they get pretty still as the CD starts, and a man’s voice tells them to listen to some sounds.

The voice asks them not to say the name of what they hear out loud, but just to themselves. But as they listen to the sounds, they don’t just lie there quietly, like other kids.»

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When Emotional Intelligence Does Not Matter More Than IQ

The sub-title of my 1995 book Emotional Intelligence reads, “Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.”  That subtitle, unfortunately, has led to misinterpretations of what I actually say – or at least it seems to among people who read no further than the subtitle. I’m appalled at how many people misread my work and make the preposterous claim, for instance, that “EQ accounts for 80 percent of success.”

I was reminded of this again when browsing comments on a journal article that fails to find much of a correlation between teenagers’ level of emotional intelligence and their academic accomplishments (Australian Journal of Psychology, May 2008). »

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Some Big News About Learning

Here’s a sneak preview of some headlines that you’ll see in the next few months: teaching kids to be more emotionally and socially competent boosts their academic achievement. More precisely, when schools offer students programs in social and emotional learning, their achievement scores gain around 11 percentile points.

In the era of No Child Left Behind, where schools are rated on how well their students score on these tests, that’s a huge advantage for individual students and schools alike. And the gains are biggest in “at risk” kids, the bottom ten percent who are most likely to fail in their education.»

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Free Won’t: The Marshmallow Test Revisited

The “marshmallow test” became one of the best-known of all the scientific studies I wrote about in Emotional Intelligence; it was featured on 20/20, Oprah, and the Lehrer Report, as well as Time magazine. In this experiment four-year-olds from the Stanford University pre-school were brought to a room and sat in a chair in front of a juicy marshmallow on a table. The experimenter then told them they could eat it now, or get two if they were willing to wait until the experimenter came back from running an errand.

Now we have a better idea of exactly what part of those four-year-old brains was at work in resisting temptation or giving in.»

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Web Rage: Why It Happens, What It Costs You, How to Stop

Two companies had formed a joint venture to develop a new telecommunications product. Engineers in both companies were hard at work, but the project itself was stalled. The reason? A consultant we know diagnosed the problem this way: “Engineers on each side never saw each other,” he told us, let alone coordinated their work on the project. “The two sides just e-mailed their irritations to each other. They were having a flame war.”

Flaming, of course, refers to an e-mail message that comes across as rude or otherwise annoying, and a flame war happens when the recipient of such a message flames back, leading to an arms race of insult.»

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