Have you heard of the famous Marshmallow Test? These were famous studies from the 1970s, which turned out to be remarkable at predicting success later in life.
It’s fascinating and makes for some hilarious video footage of people trying to restrain their impulses. Almost all of us can feel their pain! See how you would score.
The original study goes like this: several children are given a seat in a room with a plate and a single marshmallow, and the researcher – a simple authority figure in the eyes of the kids – explains that they’ll be leaving the room for a few minutes. The researcher goes on to explain to the child, generally age five to nine, that they are more than welcome to eat the marshmallow…
However… if they wait until the researcher returns, they’ll be given a second marshmallow.
What will they do?
Beyond the incredible tale of human psychology, you’re about to see, we never tire of watching these kids struggle with their impulses, something all of us, regardless of age, can identify with!
Whether you’ve seen this before or this is your first time, I find it’s always a good question to evaluate: how good were you at waiting for a better deal when you were younger? Could you sit in front of a marshmallow for 15 minutes in order to get two marshmallows, or would you have eaten the first treat before the researcher had closed the door?
How good are you now with delayed gratification?
Over the many decades since the original Marshmallow Test, we’ve learned some very interesting things thanks to the original research team following the original subjects into adulthood, giving us these trends:
- Those who would wait patiently for more marshmallows tend to make more deliberate choices later in life and do better all around with patience, foresight, and so on.
- Kids that ate the marshmallow right off often grow into adults who act compulsively too. While this isn’t intrinsically bad, it can lead to a multitude of negative outcomes: less schooling, a less fruitful career, and in some cases disasters in relationships.
We love The Marshmallow Test itself, both as a wonderful experiment in human nature and that might point us to areas we need to consider when raising our own children.
If you have any children in your life, watch this follow-up video from CBS and maybe you’ll glean some understanding as to how all of us can use the message from The Marshmallow Test to make a big difference in their futures… and even maybe our own.
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- “The Marshmallow Test: Can Children Learn Self-control?” YouTube. The Telegraph, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8M7Xzjy_m8>. ↩
- “The Marshmallow Experiment – Instant Gratification.” Vimeo. FloodSanDiego, 7 Nov. 2009. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <https://vimeo.com/7494173>. ↩
- “The Marshmallow Test.” YouTube. CBS, 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 01 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y6R5boDqh4>. ↩