The Marshmallow Test

Maybe you’ve seen this short clip already. It’s pretty cute.

Researchers contend that children who pass the marshmallow test — that is, show an ability to delay gratification for greater rewards down the line — will enjoy more success as adults. Here’s some background  info, taken from the blog, Dr. Deb:

Dr. Walter Mischel’s famous “Marshmallow Test” researched children and self-control back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The design of the experiment involved leaving a succession of 4-year-olds in a room with a bell and a marshmallow. Each child was given a set of simple instructions. If they rang the bell, Mischel would come back and they could immediately eat the marshmallow. If, however, they didn’t ring the bell and waited for him to come back on his own, he would bring them another marshmallow — thus giving them two to eat.

What Mischel found over years of following test subjects was that children who rang the bell early — in order to eat the one marshmallow — had more behavioral and academic problems growing up, got lower SAT scores and struggled in stressful situations and had limited friendships as adults. In essence, their lack of self-control had life long effects.

If you wish, here’s a six-page article from The New Yorker, written by Jonah Lehrer, that goes into a lot more depth about these personality experiments.

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I’m pretty confident that I would not have eaten the marshmallow. What about you?

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