The marshmallow test was the brain child (heh,heh double pun intended) of the father of 4 young girls around the age of 4 years old. He realized that his 4 y.o. could be convinced to put gratification now for something later. He developed a test where young children were told that they could have the marshmallow on the table now or, if they waited until the researcher returned, they could have two marshmallows. The researcher never actually returned, the test was about how long gratification could be delayed. The results varied from mere seconds to over 10 minutes. The children were local so later when his daughter was 17, he asked how some of her friends were doing. Some were off to college and some were 'dropping out'.

Interested, the researcher found as many of the subjects as he could find and it seems that those children who able to resist temptation the longest were doing better. In fact there seemed to be a significant correlation between the length of time the child could resist and their SAT scores. They have been following the 'children' for 40 years now and the correlation still seems to hold between success and resisting temptation

The difference was in hundreds of points on their SATs!! And thousands of dollars of income.

The interpretation of the results are pretty varied

The videos of the tests are incredibly cute - 4 year old kids trying to resist temptation. Take a look.

WASDted commented: very interesting +0

This is interesting. But the correlation isn't that surprising since it test the ability to resist. And the ability to resist if a form of self control. And self control helps people make better decision and so on...

Actually, there is a lot more to the test. It has a lot more to do with strategies developed to deal with the world. Children with limited strategies gave in sooner than children who had a wider range of strategies to help them deal with the dilemma. Some of the kids rocked the chair to distract themselves, there were a lot of different ways the kids were able to ignore or distract themselves from the marshmallow. Just telling the child to imagine that the marshmallow was only a picture of a marshmallow allowed them to hold out longer.

The ability to resist is more than self control (conversely, self control is more than the ability to resist) - it is about the strategies chosen to maintain self control. Is it any less about self control if the kid covers his/her eyes or crawls under the table?

Good points. Either way, the program is trying to distinguish a certain behavior from the kids, and trying to show that the range of kids with the certain behavior seems more likely to succeed. But if this distinguishing behavior is something that obviously would help formulate the child into a better person in the future, then this study isn't surprising. Thats all I'm saying.

Agreed! They go back to the tests and results often - sometimes to the point of data mining. Sometimes, the latest 'paradigm' influences how they perceive the test results.

sometimes we can learn more about the investigators than the subjects, heh,heh.

>> The researcher never actually returned

He does in the video link you posted, which I guess is a modern re-make.

So am I to understand that in the original version, the researcher never returns and thus the kid never gets the promised second marshmallow?

Fifteen minutes is a long time. I think I'd need something better than a second marshmallow as a prize to make it worth the agony. Maybe I just can't remember being 4 well enough. :)

The original researcher later replaced the marshmallow with an Oreo Cooky. One of the kids opened the cookie, licked off the center, and put it back together.