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Saturday, October 13, 2012

[Psych] The marshmallow test

There are a lot of Youtube videos of the 'marshmallow test' or 'cookie test' or any variation that involves a person having to wait for a treat. If they manage to wait it out successfully without eating it, they get two treats!

And this test has its roots in Psychology, with the first experiment conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University. You can check out the original video filmed (in black and white~) in the YT video below:

The test demonstrates a 'delay of gratification' phenomenon: how well you can resist current temptation in light of future rewards (that are potentially bigger than what is current). This is regarded as important because a lot of the things we do have their 'rewards' delayed, eg. getting your degree, your salary, becoming a famous singer etc. What is it that helps us keep focused on our goals?

This famous test showed that differences in future-oriented self-control could be found as early as preschool years (this test was done on 4-year-old children!). Following these children many years on, they found that children who resisted the initial marshmallow successfully had better academic performance and coped better with frustration and stress = more likely to become successful in life!

What if I/my niece/nephew failed that test?

You/your niece/nephew will be unsuccessful in life? 


There are many reasons why certain children succeed in this task and others don't (but I shall not turn this into a 100-page long psych essay). In the previous paragraph, coping better with frustration and stress can be learnt. Environment plays a huge factor in any learning process.So it's always possible to learn how to cope better with stress and to succeed in life (which might be why self-help books and workshops are always so abundant). 

On a lighter note

This is a fun 'game' you can try on younger children around you. You have to be able to secretly film them first though :P There are also many twists on the original test by swopping out the marshmallow with cookies and testing teenagers or adults. Maybe for Singaporean context, we'll have the pineapple tarts/onde-onde/mooncakes test etc :P

Hope you enjoyed looking at their reactions ((:

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