The famous 1960’s “Marshmallow Experiment” performed by Walter Mischel is a historical study about pre-school children’s ability to delay gratification. Mischel put children alone in a room with a marshmallow and promised the children a second marshmallow if they could wait patiently until he returned to the room. Sitting alone in a room with a delicious marshmallow was an impossible task for many of the children. Years later in a follow up study, the children who had successfully waited to eat their marshmallow turned out to have higher SAT scores and be more successful adults.
Not surprisingly similar studies have been conducted throughout the years. Most recently a researcher followed 1,298 at-risk pre-schoolers and found that those who had the ability to self-regulate did better in math and reading. Possessing self-regulation may prove to be the difference between the children who are at-risk youth who fail, compared with those that succeed. Of course, whether your child eats a marshmallow is not the ultimate predictor of success or failure in a persons life. However, learning the tools of self-regulation can help both children and adults succeed by being able to say no to themselves.
Why then do we make impulsive decisions on the here and now? Research has proved our brain my have an easier time accessing the emotions of now, rather then envisioning the future. Our brain is contantly struggling between a quick-fix emotional rush. The here and now is like an emotional marshmallow sitting on a plate in our brain just waiting to be eaten.
The other upside of Mischel’s “marshmallow study” is that it spawned some of the funniest internet videos of all time.