Friday, September 24, 2010

The Marshmallow Experiment

In the 1960s, the now classic "Marshmallow Experiment" was conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University. Some four-year-olds were given one marshmallow and promised a second one if they waited twenty minutes before eating the first one. As expected, some children were able to wait and others could not.

What happened next was interesting. The researchers followed the progress of each child into adolescence and discovered that those who waited were assessed to be better adjusted and more dependable according to their parents and teachers. Even more revealing was the fact that these kids eventually scored significantly higher on the SATs years later.

It's no surprise to me that individuals who are willing to put in the effort before seeing rewards are more sensible and perform better in school. What surprised me was that this personality trait could be pre-determined as early as four years old.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to ask Andre what he would do in the marshmallow situation. I didn't bother to ask Lesley-Anne as I knew what the answer would be - she's the queen of delayed gratification. ć…ˆè‹ŠćŽç”œ is the adage she lives by.

Me: So would you eat the marshmallow or wait to have two?

Andre: But I don't like marshmallows.

Me: Ok, let's say it's something you like to eat.

Andre: I won't eat it, maybe it has poison.

Me: Gnnnnggghhhh, imagine it's not something to eat but something you really like! Say country erasers.

Andre (perking up): Is it Saudi Arabia?

Me: Whatever! So will you take it first?

Andre: I'll wait until the man gives up.

Me: You're not answering my question! Will you take it or wait for another one?

Andre: I'll snatch both and run away.

I think there needs to be another category for suspicious kids.


Lilian said...

I've seen this experiment done with a hidden camera, kids in a room with just the cookie on the table, not sure if it was on Oprah or some other programme. It was hilarious. Some kids just pop the food into their mouth without a thought. Some waited excruciatingly, smelling the food, trying to lick it...and then some waited and waited and waited till just before time was up, cannot tahan, ate up! LOL!

I tried asking Sean just now, and before I could finish my sentence, he said I had already asked him before, maybe when he was 6 years old, except instead of 20 minutes, it was 15. He says he thinks he'll wait, but he'll turn away and not look at the Oreo cookie :) Of course he's not 4 lah.

I think Brian would gobble up haha...

monlim said...

Sean is smart lah, don't look and you won't think about it! Much better than me lah, I'm a grown woman and I can't even resist a chocolate cupcake...

Anonymous said...

LOL...Andre is so funny.

My child's response is she will wait if she is asked to because there is more satisfaction to eat 2pieces at the same time than eat 1 at a time. I asked what if she was very hungry. Her reply was she would ask for other food first and still save the best for later.

Then I asked how come there was no fixed pattern on how she ate favourite things on her platter. Sometimes from most loved first and sometimes the other way round. Her answer: She saves the best for last when she senses that I will not buy anymore for her after that. She will eat the best ingredients first when she knows that I would buy her a second helping. This seems to be contracting to the above when there is no constraint imposed huh?

So the natural self test is also confirmed except that we can be conditioned.


monlim said...

QX: Wah, your dd is a real smartie lah! Able to adapt according to the circumstance, that's the best. Mine are both creatures of habit - L-A always saves the best food for last and Andre always eats his first :)

Anonymous said...

Nah...Mon...from an overall viewpoint, she is not a smartie at are only hearing one tip of the iceberg. Wait till you walk in a car park with her, then you know what I mean. She seems to think that all cars would avoid her smart can that be? I got a horrifying shock just yesterday. LOL..

As for creatures of habits, she is too but all the bad ones! bwaaaaaaahhhh.....


monlim said...

QX: You're too modest lah, from what I hear, I'm sure she's a joy to be around :)

Anonymous said...

Mon, not about being modest...I am facing this syndrome of whether I should look things from the "half full" or "half empty" perspective. LOL


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