The Marshmallow Experiment

Today, our household undertook the Marshmallow Experiment. Here’s the premise.

You equip a room with a table and chair, nothing else that would be of distraction to a child. You sit a child at the table and present him or her with a plate containing a single marshmallow.

You inform said child that you will leave the room. And that if, upon returning to the room in a little while, the marshmallow remains uneaten, the child will receive a second mallow of the marsh variety. If they choose to instead eat the marshmallow, no second marshmallow will be forthcoming.

You leave the room, closing the door behind you, returning ten minutes later.

We undertook the experiment with our daughter. Upon leaving the room, we settled to watch the video monitor. It was fascinating.

Ten minutes is a long time, especially if you’re a kid. (She’s experienced less than quarter of a million of them in her life thus far.) And especially if there are no distractions besides the marshmallow.

Yet she was astounding. She cradled it. She sniffed it. A lot. She commented as to how yummy it would be. By way of distraction, she even named the coloured stripes adorning the edge of the plate. (Pink, blue, pink, blue, etc.)

Ten minutes later, we went back in the room. And the pink marshmallow was still gloriously intact.

The premise behind the experiment is deferred gratification: the ability to wait to obtain something that one wants. But watching the monitor, I think that in our experience, our daughter was more interested in succeeding than she was in getting a second marshmallow. Indeed after the experiment, she declined a second marshmallow.

She was delighted to have succeeded, showing abounding pride at the fact.

It’s an interesting experiment. I urge you to give it a go.


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