The Marshmallow Test

Something a little lighter this morning:

From Eat Me Daily, a quirky and occasionally hilarious food blog, comes a video remake of the classic “Marshmallow Test” first made famous by Stanford University psychologists in the 1960s. The test is a basic measure of self-control, but proves in video format to be equal parts research and entertainment.

The basic premise is this: a child is given a marshmallow and a bell and the researcher leaves the room. The child is told that if her wants, he can ring the bell, the researcher will come back, and he can eat the marshmallow. But if he waits for the researcher to come back on her own, he’ll get another marshmallow, for a grand total of TWO marshmallows!

But as the blog notes, and has been proven by follow-up analysis,this test is about more than self-control. It tests reasoning, self-interest and logical processes — no doubt all bound to come in handy later in life, which may help explain why kids who “passed” the original Stanford test (about 30 percent were able to wait for the second marshmallow) were more successful later in life.

Those who could wait 15 minutes had SAT scores that averaged 210 points higher than that of the kid who could wait only 30 seconds before digging in. From aNew Yorker article last May examining the impact of the study’s findings:

For decades, psychologists have focussed on raw intelligence as the most important variable when it comes to predicting success in life. [Stanley] Mischel, [the Stanford psychologist involved in the original study] argues that intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework. “What we’re really measuring with the marshmallows isn’t will power or self-control,” Mischel says. “It’s much more important than that. This task forces kids to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the second marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.”

Predictor of future successes, or a hilarious moment captured in time? No reason it can’t be both…

What do you think? Join the conversation below!

  • Would your kidspass the test?
  • Would you?
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