The Marshmallow Study Revisited
For the past four decades, the “marshmallow test” has served as a classic experimental measure of children’s self-control: will a preschooler eat one of the fluffy white confections now or hold out for two later?
Now a new study demonstrates that being able to delay gratification is influenced as much by the environment as by innate ability. Children who experienced reliable interactions immediately before the marshmallow task waited on average four times longer—12 versus three minutes—than youngsters in similar but unreliable situations [Video]
"Our results definitely temper the popular perception that marshmallow-like tasks are very powerful diagnostics for self-control capacity," says Celeste Kidd, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester and lead author on the study to be published online October 11 in the journal Cognition.