Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Marshmallow Test

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.

The video below simulates Mischel's "Marshmallow Test". I'd totally do what one of these cuties does - I'd touch it and smell it. Even glide it across my lips. But I could wait to eat the two marshmallows. How do you think you'd do?

Patterson, C., & Mischel, W. (1976). Effects of temptation-inhibiting and task-facilitating plans on self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33 (2), 209-217 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.33.2.209