Monday, March 15, 2010

The Marshmallow Test

Ever wonder why you’re not more successful? Maybe it has something to do with the marshmallows.

Researchers have determined another measurement for success based on a self control test. Scientists placed four-year-olds in a room by themselves with a marshmallow and a surveillance camera. Children who did not eat the marshmallow were promised a second marshmallow reward after fifteen minutes. Two-thirds of the children ate it, some immediately, some after fourteen and a half minutes. Then the real experiment began.

Later, these children were studied as adults. Overwhelmingly, the children who did not eat the first marshmallow had higher intelligence scores and were significantly more successful in their adult lives in terms of career, finances and relationships. The conclusion? The ability to deny self-gratification makes for a successful individual and a successful future.

This makes me wonder several things:
1. Why am I craving marshmallows?
2. What, at age four, would I have done? (I suspect I may have sucked out the marshmallow’s core then convinced myself that the scientist wouldn’t be able to detect my obvious ruse despite the mangled marshmallow and tell-tale white powder around my mouth.)
3. Can someone’s entire future really be determined by one marshmallow?
4. Why do people volunteer their four-year-olds for science experiments?
5. Just how many scientists out there are doing experiments on their own children?
6. Will I be more successful in life from now on if I abstain from marshmallows?
7. What if they had used chocolate chips?
8. What if there had been a campfire?
9. How many things do I deny myself for at least fifteen minutes?
10. Why am I so weak?

I don’t mean to be flippant. Scientists are smart and I like them. I do indeed see the importance of limits and self-control. But here’s something else to consider: no disrespect to four-year-olds but even if they don’t eat the marshmallows, most of them do eat their boogers. I think success is a by-product of doing what you do with love, enhanced by choices and challenges and it can’t be measured one way. How do you measure it?

10 comments:

Kris said...

Interesting post. I've read similar studies. And thanks for your comment on my blog. I'm now following yours.

Chelle said...

What does it say about you if your parents gave you those powdered gum cigarettes when you were a kid and you inhaled all the time?

Hypothetically.

Keet said...

This is totally why I can't have kids. I totally view them as like long term randomized un-controlled trials.

And thank god i don't like marshmallows.

And how did they measure "significantly more successful in their adult lives in terms of career, finances and relationships"?

Like what's a successful career? One that lasts until retirement? or one that you enjoy but change every 3-5 years, or one that pays lots of money?

Successful finances? Having lots of money in a savings account? Investing in stock markets that are dubious at best? Making enough money to do what you love doing?

Successful relationships? Long-term committed relationships? Happily single but surrounded by friends and family? Enjoying a wide network of acquaintances, or having one or two close friends????

I sense some sort of systematic bias in this study design.
Just sayin'.

I think we should repeat the study using candy apples and measure lifelong use of the words "super-duper" to see how delayed gratification REALLY impacts on success.

Chelle said...

Keith! As if you don't like marshmallows.

One day you're going to snap. All this healthy living stuff is going to make you die a little inside until you lose it and get comfortably fat like the rest of us. I'll get your skinny butt with chocolate covered marshmallow peeps.

THAT is the real conspiracy.

As for the rest of it, if we don't experiment on our kids and try to shove them into acceptable societal niches, how will they rebel and become the revolutionaries that we secretly envision? It's a delicate dance of manipulation.

What.

dbs said...

I love this debate you two are having--I so wish you two had your own show.

Keet said...

In my defence, I only like marshmallows roasted to the perfect golden colour, not burnt, and only the skin, not the inside. Try getting those babies past the ethics committee to do your study.

As for revolutionary child manipulation, it does sound like a tricky dance.
Not unlike the "cadillac ranch", which I also seem to recall you being good at, Ms. Chelle.

Keep up the good blogging DBS... I'm thoroughly enjoying. :)

Chelle said...

Not just cadillac ranch, Keith. Also the rave-on line dance and I've recently acquired some pretty mean Hoedown-Throwdown skillz via Libby. Represent!

Chelle said...

Also AHA!! SEE?? You DO like marshmallows, Sam-I-Am.

Look, I'm writing you a poem:

And you would eat them in a boat
And you would eat them with a goat
And you would roast them in a park
Or on TV or in the dark

And you'd perfect them with a lighter
And singe them with a fire-fighter
You'd eat marshmallows from a can
You do so love them, Sam-I-Am.

You'd eat marshmallows 'til you pop
Until your hands are sticky glop
You said you hate them but we can see
You lied to seem more health-i-ly (maybe)

You would eat them on a train
Until they take the place of brain
Until you can't open you teeth
Neener Neener Neener, KEITH!


Booya.

Chelle said...

Maybe I took this too far.

Keet said...

LMAO - maybe.

But i like too far.

and laughing in the morning. Thanks!

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