The Homunculus

Psychology, Anthropology, Evolution

Beware the marshmallow

Posted by Joy Icayan on November 26, 2009

Here’s a video of the marshmallow test if you’ve ever wanted to see how it’s done, or simply want to watch cute kids trying to resist that marshmallow.

The original test was conducted by Stanford professor Walter Mischel in the 1960s, where four year olds were left in a room with a marshmallow, and were promised another one if they could wait for the experimenter who would then be gone for 20 minutes. Mischel followed up on these children years later and found out that those who had been able to wait, or engage in delayed gratification,  did better in their SATs, had fewer aggression problems and were better adjusted in school according to their teachers. Mischel was also able to find a correlation between seconds of delay in eating the marshmallow and ability in handling frustration. They were also less likely to be involved in drugs and were more likely to have higher BMIs.

I was looking for stories of those who actually gobbled up the marshmallow and came across Lehrer’s New Yorker article where he talks of a high delayer and a delayer, both coming from the original group of kids, among other (a bit depressing) things. Moral lesson from the great Mischel himself: allocation of attention, don’t think about the marshmallow. Just don’t.

Links:

Delay of Gratification in Children

Don’t! The Secret of Self Control

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