Mar 18 2013

The Marshmallow Test

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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “The Marshmallow Test”

  1. champenoiseon 18 Mar 2013 at 9:51 am

    I wonder if there are inter-cultural differences in this test because cultures may differ in the extent to which patience is seen as a virtue (has probably been investigated already). Also, I wonder if the trust element goes both ways in some sense: A child has to trust the adult to come back, but if no adult ever trusts the child to be okay by him/herself, the child might not learn to regulate his/her own impulses as effectively.

  2. luther1010on 18 Mar 2013 at 11:56 am

    Funny this was a major plot device in the movie “The five year engagement” The main character was satisfied with the stale donut and believed the fresh donuts might never come. So he eats the stale one and this contributed to the break up his relationship.

  3. Ori Vandewalleon 18 Mar 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I have no idea if the data support this hypothesis, but I can imagine a scenario in which these results could challenge the original findings.

    Perhaps the children who perform poorly on the marshmallow test come from environments in which they learned not to trust adults, and those sorts of environments are highly correlated with poor socio-economic conditions. Since a poor socio-economic condition is a pretty darn good indicator for general success in life, doing poorly on the marshmallow test is then not an indicator of self-control but of having poor parents.

    Of course, if those factors were controlled for in the original study, then this hypothesis totally goes out the window.

  4. Steven Novellaon 18 Mar 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Ori – I think that is the implication some are trying to draw. The existing data do not allow for such a conclusion, however.

    Also, the original study pulled children from daycare, and I don’t think there was great disparity in socioeconomic status. I would have to review the results in more detail to see if this is the case, however.

  5. Scepticonon 18 Mar 2013 at 3:33 pm

    “The real question is – what is the balance between the two in this particular case. Is delayed gratification mostly learned, mostly innate, or roughly equal between the two? That is an interesting area of probable future research.”

    Exactly my question, as a new parent aware of the “Marshmallow” test I have been looking for information on this with no success so far.
    I would have thought with >20 years since the publication that started it all there would be existing work on this question. Anyone have a suggestion on where to look?

  6. HHCon 18 Mar 2013 at 7:08 pm

    The original study of the marshmallow test used a subject pool of a university-sponsored play school for their children. In 1972 these children probably had a good meal before participation in the study. The study looked not at hunger-driven reward but an extra treat reward. If the children had fasted, the results may have been different. The BMI of females followed up is impacted by more than just engaged feeding activity but more likely an engaged mind at an early age in a university environment. By the way, BMI is not really considered a fine assessment for physique.

  7. pdeboeron 21 Mar 2013 at 10:28 am

    I’ve struggled with self control issues all my life.
    I’ve got the sweet tooth. I cannot have candy in the house. Luckily, temptation isn’t as bad in the grocery store.
    I also have a lot of trouble staying focused on important tasks despite the reward of good grades, satisfaction in completion and job rewards.

    Despite this, I may be pudgy but I’m not obese, I’m fairly successful in life so far and I do have self control via some developed strategies.

    Looking back I’m not sure where I acquired my self control.

    How do you teach self control? Promise dessert if they are good? Do the marshmallow test at home?

    Also, can anyone suggest some resources for parents trying to teach rationality to their children?

  8. deancameronon 03 Apr 2013 at 3:31 am

    @pdeboer generally and specifically may be what you’re looking for.

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