Do you want your marshmallow now? –The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

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The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment was a study conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University. Its aim was to provide insight on the psychology of self-control.

The test was done by putting a child, between 4-6 years old, in room with no distractions, and a treat of their choice (either a cookie, a pretzel or a marshmallow) was placed on a table beside a chair. The researchers told the child that he or she could eat the marshmallow, but if the child could wait for another 15 minutes without eating the treat, the child would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.

More than 600 children were given the test. A minority of the children ate the treat right away and about one-third of the children deferred eating the marshmallow in order to get a second helping.

Many years later in follow up researches, it was discovered that there was a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and academic competence. In 1990, researchers were able to show that the kids in 1972 who waited for a second marshmallow generally got higher Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores. In 2011, researchers were also able to determine that the same children who got a second marshmallow had higher brain activity in the prefrontal cortex brain region, compared to their counterparts who could not wait the additional 15 minutes. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain is considered to be responsible for the “orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals”

It is apparent that people who are able to exert extra effort and display patience to reach a bigger goal, while delaying satisfaction for a later time, will get more in life.

More about these ideas in the next post.

-A Garlic Man