Best of 2012 // #88: Does the Marshmallow Test work?

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There’s a classic psychological test, known as the Marshmallow Test.  The test, in which children put off enjoyment is they believe they will get more rewards later, has been used as evidence that self-control can lead to success.  The test has often found a correlation between preschoolers who resist one marshmallow for two later, tend to fair better as adolescents, even suggesting better concentration, focus and higher SAT scores.  This year, University of Rochester proved that the results are not so simple.
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In a study performed by psychologist Celleste Kidd and her team, an experimenter told children between 3 and 5 years that they would be getting new stickers or crayons, but often simply returned empty handed, telling the children the supply had run out.  When those same children took the Marshmallow test, they gobbled the treat down fairly quickly.

If there may not be a second marshmallow, why wait?

If the children got the stickers or crayons they were promised, they also tended to wait for the marshmallow an average of four times longer.  The conclusion?  Kidd suggests that what may seem like a lack of willpower might just be a different worldview.  Disappointment may teach the children that the best time to eat your dessert is when you have it in front of you.

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