Believe it or not, a shriveled-up grape may have the power to predict a child's intelligence. According to new research out of the University of Warwick, how a child responds to being told not to eat a raisin under a cup is an indicator of how smart she will be at age 8.
Most kids won't be able to resist eating the tiny snack. But those who can make it a full minute before indulging have a better chance of academic success later in life. In fact, the rare resistors of the raisins will have IQs seven points higher than the tots who ate the fruit immediately.
To reach their conclusions, researchers tested 558 children enrolled in the Bavarian Longitudinal Study at 20 months old. They compared the results from children born prematurely, between 25 to 38 weeks, with kids born between 39 to 41 weeks.
In each case, and after three test runs, a raisin was placed in an opaque cup in front of the children, and they were told not to touch or eat it until instructed. Exactly one minute later, testers said the kids could eat the dried piece of fruit.
Kids born prematurely were more likely to go for the raisin before the 60 seconds was up. Follow-up studies showed kids who ate the snack right away were more likely to have poor attention skills and low academic achievement seven years later.
"The raisin game is an easy and effective tool that is good at assessing inhibitory control in young children, takes only 5 minutes, and can be used in clinical practice to identify children at risk of attention and learning problems," says Professor Dieter Wolke from the University of Warwick Medical School. "Better inhibitory control at age 20 months predicted better attention regulation and academic achievement at age 8 years. The results also point to potential innovative avenues to early intervention after preterm birth."
The hope is for learning challenges to be identified, and addressed earlier for optimal development.
If this all sounds familiar, it's because this game is based on Dr. Walter Mischel's marshmallow test, which explored the same principles of self-control in kids in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
And incidentally, lest you try to replicate this test at home, researchers warn you may not get the same results as you would in a clinical setting.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.