The Marshmallow Test

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation.” – Jane Austen

Back in college, during a Psychology 101 type class, we learned about the Marshmallow Test, otherwise known as deferred gratification. For those not familiar, it was when a group of children were given one marshmallow. They had the choice to eat the one, or wait for 20 minutes when, if the marshmallow wasn’t eaten, they’d get a second one.

Sometime later, it was decided that those children who waited went on to become smarter students.

The study was conducted again, this time with an adorable video to go with it. Once again, the children received a single marshmallow, and once again they were asked to wait in order to get a second – or eat the marshmallow right away to be instantly satisfied.

When I first heard of the study, I knew i’d be one of those children who waited. I was always one to wait. When playing Monopoly, I used to make a small pile of money and set it apart from my normal amount. That way I’d always have a “savings account” to go to when I truly needed it. I always had concrete plans before ever traveling; I never went to class without a backup pen.

I watched the video tonight and realized how waiting…isn’t fun. Sure there’s that guarantee for something grander in the end, but why delay gratification if it’s right there in front of you? Why wait for the possible when the definite is sitting on the table waiting to be eaten? There’s so much to do, to see, to want – why wait for a time when it may be better?

Maybe it’s because I just passed a birthday, or maybe it’s because of tired of hiding that small stack of Monopoly money. Maybe I want to buy Boardwalk, and hope someone lands on it so I can pay its taxes. Maybe I don’t want to wait for the second marshmallow anymore. Maybe I want to grab the one in front of me just as the instructor is leaving, pop it in my mouth, and ask “what’s next?” Maybe one is just right.

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2 thoughts on “The Marshmallow Test

  1. Ceri says:

    Very cool.

    As a child, I’d definitely have been one of those kids who waited patiently. Now I’m much more impulsive and leap before I think. That marshmallow would have been eaten long before the adults even left the room!

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