Kakaire Steven King
4 min readFeb 17, 2024
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Have you ever sat down to eat a plate you loaded yourself and you can’t vividly remember with the slightest and roughest detail why the mountain before you came into existence? Have you ever known why some people survive through high school and college with what appears on surface to be second-nature ability? Why did that chap win the heart of that hot girl (Joan Doe) you were afraid to confess your love to?

If you have ever been painfully dragged through the above emotionally torturing but true and unforgiving experiences, bro/sis, you are not alone. Countless people are facing similar experiences every microsecond that flies by.

Media is littered with neck-breaking headlines that make some of us open our eyes widely in astonishment and quiet our surprised lips with a palm. Headlines read like: Headteacher caught in the act. Girl tested HIV/AIDS positive, His embarrassing wealth couldn’t buy him a handkerchief. He stole one. These headlines seem to be strictly reserved for financial tycoons, a highly respected archbishop or a ‘PhDed’ lecturer (whose research gave the world hope for a cure to cancer). These people are intellectually and emotionally intelligent otherwise, how would they have achieved such eminence? Then why do they act so slyly and gravely stupid.

I am not the holiest angel you shall ever meet. I have also painfully interrogated myself why I gave in to a red-hot temptation. In a bid to delve into the psychology of gratification, I have stumbled upon a great ocean of texts by renowned researchers of all times. Gratification is as old as mankind. The story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit is the first chronicle of gratification and man’s crippled ability to resist temptation.

In his book, The Marshmallow test, a famed psychologist Walter Wischel demystifies the folk wisdom many have held for lifetimes about gratification. The Marshmallow test conducted by Walter and colleagues at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, tested the abilities of children to resist gratification for a now smaller reward versus a delayed bigger reward. Walter says they painfully watched the helpless kids struggle and burst into heartbreaking tears when faced with the marshmallow temptation. They equally smiled when they saw some kids invent strategies to overcome the temptation. He writes that one kid distracted herself from the temptation by playing with her toes as if they were piano keys. (I want to be that kid when temptation comes my way. Yes, I meant it.). Some kid could have made the famous Ruud Van Nestrooy’s corner-flag celebration after delaying gratification (I am imagining a certain kid).

In his decades-long research, Walter found correlations between abilities to delay gratification among children in their early years and their later-life-successes. A great percentage of children who passed the Marshmallow test in 1960s completed college and attained higher academic qualifications with distinctions, had thriving relationships and were living good lives. In contrast, those children who failed the Marshmallow test, a bigger percentage didn’t finish college, were drug-addicts, and had struggling relationships. Some of the them had ratty lifestyles.

Is the ability to delay gratification an attainable ability? Is it innate and DNA-encoded thus not malleable? Fortunately, this ability is attainable given the appropriate nurturing. Walter goes deep to explain how this ability is a confluence of nature and nurture.

He suggests tested and time-proof strategy on how to overcome temptation. He explains the brain-architecture and its mechanisms to inform the reader about the hot system (which is reflexive, irrational and automatic) and the cool system (which is reflective, thinking, future-consequence considerate). The hot and cool systems are constantly wrestling each other and functioning in a reciprocal manner. When one is faced with a hot temptation, in most cases, the hot system kicks in and takes dictatorship over that person. She ceases to reason and all the actions thereafter are irrational, impulsive and reflexive. The cool (reasoning and logical) system is greatly attenuated and its abilities crippled. She is now in a fight-or-flight mode.

The If-then implementation strategy can be handy to encode actions in our hot system when temptations present themselves. These actions are automatically actuated in the face of temptation. Had Adam and Eve equipped themselves with an if-then strategy, we would all be happily living in the garden of Eden. An example of the If-then implementation could be: If I receive my salary, I shall sit my other-half (read mama Junior or baba Junior) and myself down and carefully and curatively prioritize our needs for two weeks before a highly informed expenditure.

Why are many people frequently facing the injustices of red-hot temptations? I hope and pray you personally learn and teach your loved ones to delay gratification and always look ahead for bigger and enduring reward in the future.

Do you know what!!! I have always passed the Marshmallow test since childhood. According to psychology, my lifestyle trajectory has been a confluence of nature and nurture. I can’t proud myself for having achieved all that without crediting God and mama Kakaire.

Peace and Grace