Queenswood Wellbeing Week: The Marshmallow Experiment
Sunday 1 March 2015
As long ago as the 1970’s scientists discovered evidence to suggest that the ability to delay gratification is a key factor in helping our wellbeing. This means doing your study before you watch Made in Chelsea, or saving for a new pair of shoes rather than just asking your parents.
The Stanford Marshmallow experiment took place at a Nursery School in Stanford University, using children age four to six as subjects. Children were led into a room, empty of distractions, where a marshmallow was placed on a table, by a chair. The children could eat the marshmallow, the researchers said, but if they waited for fifteen minutes without giving in to the temptation, they would be rewarded with a second. The psychologists observed that some children would “cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray”, while others would simply eat the marshmallow as soon as the researchers left.
Of over 600 children who took part in the experiment, a minority ate the marshmallow immediately. Of those who attempted to delay, one third deferred gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow.
Follow-up studies of those original children showed that those who delayed gratification and waited to eat the marshmallow achieved higher exam scores, were higher earners later in life, had longer lasting marriages, were less likely to be in prison – basically the ability to save the marshmallow was a predictor of later wellbeing.