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Wait For It… Wait For It

May 4, 2010


Patience pays, Don’t give in to temptations, Have Self-control: we have been told since our childhood. Well, depending on how much self control or patience we have, determines our success in life. To study these effects and what mental processes lead to self control or delayed gratification, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a very famous Marshmallow experiment with a group of few 4 year old kids in Stanford in 1960. The idea was that these kids were given a marshmallow and were asked to wait for another 20 minutes without eating it. If they can wait, they will be given an additional marshmallow, but if they want to eat the given one, they can just ring the bell and the experimenter will be there and will let her eat the given marshmallow.  For 4-year old kids, this is a very hot temptation and to wait for another 20 minutes was tough. Majority of them rang the bell within few seconds, while some didn’t even ring the bell and started eating it. While there were few who were able to resist the temptation by diverting their attention in various ways, such as playing hide and seek with the marshmallow, or singing a song, or looking in  different direction and so on. Basically, they developed a technique to divert their attention and thus developed a mental diversion. Some other kids too tried to work on such kind of mental plays, by focusing on the marshmallow, but that was a wrong approach and ultimately couldn’t resist.

While, the test was very simple, but it’s results has been studied and discussed a lot. Mischel followed the progress of these kids who participated in the test and found a correlation between the kids’ delayed gratification results to their later on success/failure in life. He found out that kids who waited longer for full 20 minutes for another marshmallow, were doing good in life with no behavioural and social problems, better SAT scores, and more successful in general as compared to kids who couldn’t wait.  Mischel argues that intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework. “What we’re really measuring with the marshmallows isn’t will power or self-control,” Mischel says. “It’s much more important than that. This task forces kids to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the second marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.” [From the New Yorker ]

So the patience does pay, one has to just learn the mental techniques to get away from temptations and just focus on goals. The above video is a repeat of similar experiment filmed by Steve. (might not be the exact experimental conditions as 1960 experiment; the age of kids doesnt look same to me, some of them are very young)

Source: The New Yorker, Vimeo

Filed under: Children,Research,Video

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2 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Neha  |  May 6, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I see parallels and smell inspirations 🙂

  • 2. pravesh  |  May 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    ha ha…very funny and makes a lot of sense.

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