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One Marshmallow or Two?

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They’ve done a new version of a 1960s Stanford experiment. Sit a small child in a room with a marshmallow on a plate, and tell them that if they stay sitting in front of it and don’t eat it, they will get a second marshmallow when the experimenter comes back. Then leave the room and make sure a camera is trained on the kids.

Share their pain:

It begins to look like a test of how close you can get it to the inside of you, or how much of it you can actually put into your mouth, while still trying for the second marshmallow. One small girl, who is clearly hyper-conflicted, wins this contest hands down, but is in denial about what the experimenter is going to make of the resulting mess she puts back on the plate. She deserves not one, but two extra marshmallows, in my opinion, but then I rejoice in the barefaced challenge to authority.

Follow-ups from the original test have suggested that those who didn’t eat the marshmallow (who seem astonishingly to be in the majority in this clip) were more successful in later life than those who couldn’t wait. Something about strategy, realpolitik, and the old dreary wisdom that says maturity is about delayed gratification. Well, fair enough, control freaks, you may have a better job and more pay, have a hunkier husband and prize-winning children, and no doubt a pedigree pussy if you didn’t eat the first marshmallow and got the second one, too. But consider this as you stuff them both into your face: those who gobble the first marshmallow on the plate and let the second one go hang, not only forever get their pleasure when they want it and subvert the idiot rules life’s experimenters lay down, but they’re thinner.

Comments on “One Marshmallow or Two?”

  1. Thomas Jones says:

    It also looks like an exercise in tolerating boredom. There’s nothing to play with except the marshmallow. The more ‘successful’ people may simply be those who don’t mind being bored. And good luck to them.

    • Martin says:

      There’s also the plate. Never forget that children prefer the wrapping to the contents. Well, maybe not if the choice is between styrofoam and marshmallow, but in dire straits …

  2. alex stavrakas says:

    I’m sure you didn’t miss it, but just in case (from The New Yorker, May 18 issue): http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer

  3. jcclarkeru says:

    That is pure existential performance art…and I would suggest the pedigree pussy (if not the prize-winning life) probably belongs to the woman who would have eaten the marshmellow immediately, because chances are, if she waited to collect more, she’d never have eaten either of them. So much for delayed pleasure. It only wins you prizes, not necessarily satisfaction.

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