Low credit scores are because you’re impatient. Or so some scientists say.
Let’s rewind. Stanford University famously performed an experiment on children, who were offered a choice between a small reward soon (one marshmallow), or two small rewards later (two marshmallows). The researcher would tell the children that if they wanted the two marshmallows, they’d have to wait until they returned at a time that wasn’t specified (the longest a researcher was gone would be 10 minutes).
The study, performed in the late 1960’s by Walter Mischel, was an experiment in gratification. Most kids can’t help themselves. They can’t delay their gratification and so they do what I’m sure many of us would do at that age, in that scenario, which is get to snacking.
However, the experiment went beyond marshmallows and gratification. Mischel intended the experiment to be longitudinal. And so the Stanford scientists ended up getting an update on these children.
Psychologists have performed the experiment many times. In general, fewer than half the kids “pass” the test. Most kids can’t delay gratification: They gobble up the marshmallow.
The researchers followed these kids for decades and found that those who did wait were more likely to have better SAT scores and better jobs later on in life, the researchers reported.
There was also a link to obesity. There are a lot of theories as to what this famous experiment explains. Patience is obviously one. Trust in authority. A child’s trust in their surrounding environment is yet another. And so researchers have begun to build on the experiment’s purpose.
The Association for Psychological Science performed a similar study just recently, connecting impatience to lower credit scores and a default on mortgages.
During tax season, Meier and Sprenger recruited 437 low-to-moderate income people at a community center in Boston that was offering tax preparation help. Each person was given a questionnaire in which they made choices between a smaller, immediate reward and a larger reward later. This is a common test for seeing if people are willing to delay gratification. The questions offer different time periods and different amounts. The participants also agreed to let the researchers access their credit scores.
It’s important to remember that research identifies what is happening. Not how it’s happening. If you have a low credit score, it doesn’t mean you must be an impatient person. Just the same, having a high credit score doesn’t suddenly make you patient.
However, low credit scores occur for a number of reasons. People default on loans. They’re late to make payments. They lose their jobs. Or encounter sudden health concerns. What leads people there in the first place, however? Even if you’re impatient, you still have choices. Don’t let your impatience make the choices for you.