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Marshmallow Test - Walter Mischel, PhD
Transcript of Marshmallow Test - Walter Mischel, PhD
Walter Mischel, PhD - psychologist now at Columbia University
1960-1970's, Bing Nursery School (Stanford University)
Purpose: to study self-control in children & their ability to delay gratification
Experimented with children's ability to practice strategic waiting and/or self-control in a method to which they would have a reaction
16 boys and 16 girls were chosen, ages ranging from 3 1/2 to 5 1/2
No particular criteria other than age
Single blind study
Why Single Blind?
The experiment tested for delayed gratification, a concept that 3-5 year olds were not familiar with
Could have influenced the results
Subjects were placed room with a marshmallow (or some other kind of sweet) on a plate. The researchers told them that if they waited for them to come back before eating the marshmallow, they would give them an additional marshmallow. After approximately 12 minutes, the researchers would return with a marshmallow, and - depending on whether or not the subject had eaten the first one - would give the second marshmallow to the subject. After the experiment, the researchers investigated the varying levels of success (via SAT scores, educational attainment, BMI) of the subjects.
This methodology was designed to achieve the anticipated result by maintaining constant subjects in order to understand the relation between willpower during childhood and success during adulthood. Also, testing children with marshmallows examined early signs of self-control through a practical experiment involving something that the child would be interested in.
Outcomes & Findings
Post-experiment studies: children who waited=higher SAT scores and healthier BMI
Children who did not wait=generally lower SAT scores and unhealthier BMI
Findings were expected because if people can delay gratification, it shows level of self-control and willpower, which are also factors that lead people to success.
Relevance - Short term vs. Long term findings
In the short-term, the outcomes of the study would simply show which children had more self-control when they were by themselves.
In the long-term, the general public now knows that there is evidence of the correlation between self-control, delayed gratification, and what we see as success in our modern society.
Besides, we can use this experiment to have an idea of whether a child has potential to be successful in life, or also teach children at an early age, if possible, to control their desires and think logically before being impetuous. Like this, it would be probable that in the future, more people will have the qualities of successful people, allowing society to be more harmonious and thoughtful.
It is relevant today because considering the way how we measure success in modern society, delayed gratification and self-control are important factors to achieve that success. In the modern world, being able to control oneself is a sign of intelligence and can help an individual think logically.
After all, patience is a virtue, and delayed gratification is just a way to prove that an individual is capable of suppressing desires to receive increased amounts of the reward (or marshmellow). In real life, the marshmallow could represent either capital or forms of joy in people’s lives, and those who know how to wait for the right time, working for the “greater reward” are more successful in the long-run.