Blacks, Whites, and Delayed Gratification: The Evidence

‘Yes, Blacks on average have an inability to delay gratification.’
Is there evidence for that? How do you test for it?

There has been something called the candy bar test that they do with young kids around age 4-6. They have been doing it with White and Black kids since the early 1960’s. The test says you can have one candy bar now or you can wait 15 minutes and get two candy bars. The White kids are much more likely to wait 15 minutes for the two bars, and the Black kids are much more likely to say give me the candy bar now, screw waiting 15 minutes.
The test has been repeated numerous times with White and Black kids since the 1960’s, and the result every time is exactly the same. The test has also been done in both the Caribbean and the US. They have done the test so many times and gotten the same result that people are saying they are getting tired of doing the test because it always comes out the same.
That evidence, along with the painfully obvious evidence staring you right in the face here in multiethnic US, indicates to me that Blacks on average have a low ability to delay gratification compared to Whites, and I assume based on the candy bar test that it is genetic.
Obviously there are exceptions, even outrageous ones, such as my co-blogger Alpha and I commenter Tulio. Alpha got a BA in English from UC Berkeley. Berkeley is one of the most demanding schools in the US.

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56 thoughts on “Blacks, Whites, and Delayed Gratification: The Evidence”

  1. People make much of the candy experiment, but the experiment doesn’t demonstrate anything about race or genes. It demonstrates that the Black kids tend to be less able to delay gratification than the non-Black kids, but it doesn’t show why. By the nature of the experiment, it can’t possibly indicate why.

    1. Hi Robert, great topic of debate.
      There is evidence that suggests an eclectic influence. If we take the three psychological dimensions thought, biology and environment they have found evidence of influence on all three levels. The original experiment by Walter Mischel referred to as the marshmallow test is famous for the idea. His follow up experiment was to show that it was conditional and learned. When he gave the kids tools to delay gratification they went for 4 times longer. He was also able to show that under certain circumstances the kids that performed the best were unable to delay with other situations. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=0b3SWsjWzdA)
      Today there is early evidence that biology plays a role. They found differences in the functioning of the right prefrontal cortex (cognitive control-with high delayers) and the ventral striatum (an area also linked to addiction-with low delayers), (Zayas, V., Mischel, W., & Pandey, G. (2014). Mind and brain in delay of gratification.)
      There is also now a lot of focus on the environmental factors such as trust. They took kids and subjected them to an untrustworthy rewards system (they lied and didn’t cough up the second reward) and then immediately after did the marshmallow test and they performed poorly. The other group were subjected to a trust worthy reward system and performed much better. (Kidd, C., Palmeri, H., & Aslin, R. N. (2013). Rational snacking: Young children’s decision-making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability.)  
      Delay correlates with IQ but it is thought that delay helps with focus, study and learning so again which causes which is still in debate.
      There is also focus on does delay cause poverty or does poverty cause delay. Currently there is evidence for both.
      There are studies showing that many poverty areas, (many of them non white races ) are performing less successfully in delayed gratification. Again the debate is young on how much is thought (cognitive), how much is biology and how much is environment.
      A word on the continuous results suggesting biology. Recent studies are showing that these groups are getting better and gap is closing suggesting biology may not be as strong as we thought.
      In Australia we have this cool little saying. “Man is not created equal, that’s educations job” Regardless of the cause nature or nurture it appears education has the potential to bring back balance.
      I look forward to more debate.
      Stay awesome

  2. Yeah but the fact that it has been invariable over some period of time and some area of space really has me thinking biology. Stuff that doesn’t vary over time and space really gets me thinking that it is not culture.

    1. Yes. Naturally people are going to fill in the blanks and decide for themselves what’s going on.

  3. The math department at my US university has black African graduate students. Math is certainly something that requires delayed gratification.

  4. Delayed gratification isn’t always a good thing. Some guys work hard at physical labor and make a lot, and others go down a vocational path and make a lot. One could even argue that a supermarket employee might make a lot, when you consider that he worked for years at a low paying job.
    Meanwhile, a lot of college grads go thru school, and still can’t get a high paying job in their major.

  5. Do you have a link to the original study? I’m curious if they controlled for poverty. I would expect kids that are poor to delay gratification less because they live in a world of scarcity where a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

      1. But was it controlled for poverty. That’s what I’m curious about. I’m making no statement either way about the veracity of conclusions, I just want to know if poverty was controlled for.

        1. This is what I love about the Left, HAIRSPLITTING. The poverty thing is not important. People are poor because they are defective; poverty does not cause the defect. People don’t commit crime because they are poor. They are poor because they commit crime.

      2. Does anyone know if IQ correlates with deferred gratification? Do blacks with IQs of 100+ defer gratification at the same rate as whites?

    1. Excellent point Tulio. When I was a kid, I got sweets and chocolate bars (candy to you Americans) all the time. We even had a cupboard at home with mini candy bars and stuff like that for treats. Surely if that is your circumstances, you’re more likely to think ‘I’m going to be having my normal candy this week and now I’ve got 3 extra coming next week-sweet’. Whereas if you are hungry or if you hardly ever get candy, its a much bigger deal to be offered a candy bar and you’re more likely to want it now.
      The dude has a point. Its a possibility. They have to be controlled for poverty.

  6. I think it’s because of economic background. Let’s face it, blacks are often poorer than whites. And what do poor people do as soon as they get their foodstamps, or a check in the mail? They go spend it on every fun thing they wanted and had to go without, pies, cookies, cigarettes, wine, and they indulge in those things a ton, run out because they went willy-nilly, go without, and then repeat the process once they get their foodstamps or check again. I know this, because I do this. I was on foodstamps until like, two months ago. And I’ve seen loads of other poor people do it too. If you haven’t had something in a while, as soon as you can get it you want it and you want it NOW without any thought about what happens later. Doubtless, if these kids saw their parents behaving this way, that’s how they’ll behave. I don’t think it has anything to do with intelligence or genetics, but learned behavior.

    1. Time preference is indeed correlated with IQ apparently across races. The higher your IQ, the longer your time preference. The lower your IQ, the shorter your time preference.

  7. By the way I’m loving your site now I started poking around the parts that don’t have to do with OCD; it’s so controversial and fun to debate! 😀

  8. Blacks are obsessed with the material world. Lol even the Buddha refused to help such lost causes 🙂 Seriously, I think that Whites, Jews, East Asians and South Asians are the most money conscious. I’ve seen the Indians and Chinese in the California area, and they are so money conscious, it puts the Jew to shame. It’s like Russel Peters said, “Chinese can’t give a bargain and Indians cannot live without a bargain!” Lol I guess this money conscious mind is what makes the Indians and Chinese quite successful, as immigrants.

    1. Blobert, you have to quit using ethnic slurs. I received a number of votes to ban you from the site probably due to your use of slurs. If you stop the slurs, I will not ban you, ok?

      1. Oh that scared me 🙁 I thought you were banning me for asking a lot of questions. Sorry for exploding the side post. Just had a lot of questions.

    2. Blacks are statiscally affected more than other races by many, many vices, but that one you allege is just opposite the most frequent reality : African-type Blacks have more frequent spontaneous taste for religion and mystical experiences than many others, an what is more remarkable most often in the very absence of any external credible authority or economic incentive obliging them to obey any church or other religious body. You may allege they are more interested in magic and occult powers that would result in mundane goods, than in religion proper, but you are mistaken, you find more of both amidst the Blacks. Just go and check for yourself : . You may allege they quite often go into low-quality religions, and most often to the ones that resort to mass hysterics (Haitian voodoo being one of the most perfect kind of the genre, together with some more recent Pentecostal-type of Christian churches), but doing so they are in quest of spontaneousness, not of control, and that is the most important step in entering any religion where the let go and not the ego is the mainstay. One people the spirituality of which has always been much overrated are the Indians, even the professional mystics among them : far more systematically than the Blacks, they practice religious rituals primarily for the material advantages to gain, and also for petty revenge. Sorcery in the Black word does exist to a catastrophic degree and is part and parcel of the way the Black societies are rules politically, but it is always perceived as negative by the general opinion, like among the medieval Europeans. That is not the case in India, where the absence of any gainful economic purpose behind any act is perceived as the main vice. Yoga as we know it is actually a purely materialistic system viewing all things spiritual themselves as something to be gained like any technological power or stock exchange values.

  9. Leeminho I’m not Aum from Feministx’s blog. But, I am someone from that blog, if you’re wondering 🙂 Not sure about Blobert. I think he was a troll account from someone else.

    1. Ah I didn’t saw this reply, 🙂 I did asked again the question sorry, I didn’t remember the article where I asked this first, and since I didn’t get a notification on my inbox I supposed it wasn’t answered

  10. I have been following your blog for quite a long time. One thing I don’t understand about you : you admit there are intellectually and morally inferior people like most Negroes, who are so because of their genetic makeup, of their racial inheritance, you also admit there are superior people in terms of IQ and gratification inhibition such as the Jews, the Northern Germanic, the Northern Chinese ; on the other hand you are a socialist and oppose a society of classes such as India always was, such as Southern Confederacy used to be, such as post-modern America strives to be. You seem to hate India with an especial fervour.
    My opinion is that the African Negro race has been given to us by nature as the proof writ gigantic of the utter inanity of all humanistic equalitarian theories, and of the necessity of maintaining social segregation and revenue inequality not only between blacks and non-blacks, but also between less visible but nonetheless important biological factors of discrimination.

  11. Hello Robert,
    I want to commend you for your brave posts! I really enjoy seeing tht someone else has done research that is similiar to my interests. However, I would love if u could send me multiple citations to the studies that u talked about in this article. Plz do this so I can disprove an evolutionary biology professor about there being some causations associated with behavior between certain ethnic lines..
    Thanks

  12. I think this experiment could also reflect childhood experiences regarding promises kept vs. broken, rather than solely analyzing from delayed gratification point of view.
    An adaptation made by a child who grew up in an environment where promises of future rewards were routinely broken/reneged would be to pragmatically take whatever is certainly available right now in the present, rather than bank on the promising party remaining faithful to carry out the pledge in the future. A child who trustfully/naively believes whatever the adult promises in the future (3 candy bars vs. 1, etc.) might be inclined to do so because of a stable childhood upbringing in which parents had the means to provide the “guarantee” of future benefit.
    I had a relatively sheltered childhood, and when I was young, I would have chosen to wait a week to get 3 candy bars instead of one, because I was raised to trust adults and authority, and wouldn’t really question whether or not I would actually receive three candy bars in the end. Nowadays, having experienced more of the spectrum of life, I’d just take the immediate candy bar with the guarantee of at least one, rather than have to deal with the hassle of empty promises, or excuses like “out of stock,” etc.
    Here’s a more real-life example: You can either cash out your stock shares now at a profit of $1000, or wait one year to get the company’s projected profit of $3000 as promised by the CEO; which do you choose?
    I’d be scramming off as fast as I can with the $1000, in today’s world 😛

      1. When I told u I was a biologist I meant that I am a student researching cellular biology. I have nothing, or else I’d pay u for ur work. I just read ur bio. It is strange to me that u r a Christian. I assumed that u would have criticized the Bible, alike everything else, and realized its faults

        1. I was an atheist for many years and then I gave it up and went back to Christianity because it was so unsatisfying. I am about the most secular Christian you will ever meet and most Christians bother me because they are way too religious. I am a Christian the same way a lot of Latin men are Catholic. There is a lot of junk in the Old Testament but the New Testament is pretty clean.

      1. Actually, it appears that google is finally coming back with plentiful results, unlike 2 years ago when I researched this. Also, I’m curious, r u an Ashkenazi Jew? U look much like a friend of mine who is a full-blooded Jew

        1. Why do u dislike the Jews? Or did I completely misunderstand what u said? I assumed with ur behavioral genetical research, u would like them for their superior rates of mental cognition.

        2. I do not dislike them at all in particular. I criticize them though, so I get called those names a lot by Super-Jews and their fans. I think I want to be one. My gf is Jewish. She agrees with everything I say about them. Except for my support for Hezbollah though, that is where she draws the line.

        3. I just saw ur posts about communism. We will definetly be talking a lot because I studied it for years and am about to write an 80 page paper on communism in Vietnam. Great site!!!!

  13. In the Stanford marshmallow experiment the children were asked to wait for 15 minutes, no a week. Waiting a week for a few candy bars would IMO be stupid. Children have a different time perspective than adults.
    Some have explained that because poor are so hungry and seldom get candy that affects the situation. In reality poor people in the U.S. are more obese than rich ones. Same holds to blacks vs. Whites:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18717206

      1. Mischel, the researcher who conducted the experiments in the Caribbean, did find that the Black kids were less likely to delay gratification. What he also found is that there was a correlation between having a father in the home and being able to delay gratification. Children with absent fathers were more likely to prefer immediate gratification.

        1. Funny, I’ve been looking at Black Absent Father rates lately and I think by looking at the data behind causes and Familial anecdotes it’s complex more so than what others make them out to be, but that doesn’t necessarily refute a biological hypothesis which is supported by other measures.

    1. I thought they used candy bars. The original studies were done in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in the Caribbean and the Southern US. No matter how many times they do it, the results always come out the same. Eventually they stopped doing it because they kept getting the same result.
      Actually there are long rebuttals on Cultural Left sites explaining why this study does not show what it claims to show – that Blacks on average have less ability to delay gratification than Whites. The antiracist rejoinders argue that these studies actually prove no such thing.
      Considering all the rejoinders out there and the number of people who have heard of these studies, it looks like they did take place and they were differentiated by race.
      As far as the link, go chase it down yourself. If you question the source of this fact, it’s up to you to go find the easily available sources for it.

      1. i remember how some Black professor tried to prove that the IQ test was biased in favor of Whites by coming out with a Black IQ test, the so called BITCH-100 Test by Robert L Williams (More like an achievement test – it asked whether you knew who Jackie Robinson or Malcolm X is, etc.) Well, Blacks did better on the test, that is true. However, when they gave the same test to Whites, Whites again outperformed Blacks. The just can’t handle the truth.

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