Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Joachim De Posada Talks About Delayed Gratification

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the a-bird-in-hand dept.

Science 105

grrlscientist writes "Here is a short talk in which Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification — and how it can predict future success. With priceless video of kids trying their hardest not to eat their marshmallow."

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

mmm... Marshmallos (4, Insightful)

Q-Hack! (37846) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055005)

The question now becomes: Can you teach this concept of self discipline to kids or are they born with it? To say that the kid who eats the marshmallow won't be successful is a bit misleading. I know for a fact that I would have eaten the marshmallow at that age. However, I was a 'B' student in school, I have a good career and a loving family. I don't live pay check to pay check. I would say I have succeeded in life.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (2, Insightful)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055103)

success is very subjective. Can't really measure it and can't really perform any tests to determine it.

yuck, Marshmallos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055315)

I never liked marshmallos. Now, if it had been chocolate bars....

Re:yuck, Marshmallos (4, Funny)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056123)

I could easily resist the marshmallow. I see it going like this:

"OK, gnick, we're going to place this beer right here in front of you. Your job is to..."
"I'm sorry - I wasn't listening. This beer is empty, can I have another?" *BURP*

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (2, Insightful)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056049)

The whole conclusions seem bunk to me. One of their classic cases of a kid who couldn't wait "Craig, meanwhile, moved to Los Angeles and has spent his career doing âoeall kinds of thingsâ in the entertainment industry, mostly in production."
I know people who would sell their own mother's soul to work in production. It sounds like in spite of the study's conclusions, he's doing just fine.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Ocker3 (1232550) | more than 5 years ago | (#29059639)

he defined the conditions for 'success'. Doing well in school, good relationships with teachers, good number of friends, happy with their life.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 5 years ago | (#29064605)

Yep, and people who think they have a measure for it usually have an agenda, and define success according to their agenda. If they want more people like X in the world then being like X ends up being their working definition of success.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 5 years ago | (#29067735)

Clearly, "success" consists of getting substantial amounts of grant money in order to design and perform experiments on children.

By the by, I wonder why an economist hasn't chimed in with an argument about the declining marginal utility of marshmallows...

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055185)

The question now becomes: Can you teach this concept of self discipline to kids or are they born with it? To say that the kid who eats the marshmallow won't be successful is a bit misleading. I know for a fact that I would have eaten the marshmallow at that age. However, I was a 'B' student in school, I have a good career and a loving family. I don't live pay check to pay check. I would say I have succeeded in life.

if niggers keep producing bastard children factory-style who are raised by big fat bitchy-ass single moms on welfare who somehow think they're hot then you might think it can't be taught. you'd be wrong. then again SOMEBODY keeps knocking up those big fat sows so they're never gonna stop thinking they're hot. damn.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055309)

The question now becomes: Can you teach this concept of self discipline to kids or are they born with it? To say that the kid who eats the marshmallow won't be successful is a bit misleading. I know for a fact that I would have eaten the marshmallow at that age. However, I was a 'B' student in school, I have a good career and a loving family. I don't live pay check to pay check. I would say I have succeeded in life.

*stereotypes omitted*

When I first started this reply, I thought there was something to which to respond. My bad.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29058311)

Yeah, the dude is a beaner, not a nigger. Everything else you said still applies however.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (5, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055225)

To say that the kid who eats the marshmallow won't be successful is a bit misleading.

It's also a mischaracterization of what's said in the video.

If you watch the video, he says that 100% of the children who didn't succumb were successful students, but that 80% of the ones who did were having school problems.

So nobody is saying that if you ate it you won't be successful (just that you're less likely to be), and nobody is saying that you wouldn't be successful in life, but in school.

So your post really has nothing whatsoever to do with the article, or any of the statements or claims within.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055877)

Maybe you should read the New Yorker article linked many times below. They are precisely saying the kids who ate the marshmallow were less successful in life, not only in school. The original researcher followed the subjects for decades, and the ones who gave in had drug problems, were fatter, had worse SAT scores, fewer friendships, and behavioral problems as kids. All this in addition to doing worse in school.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Denial93 (773403) | more than 5 years ago | (#29057859)

Success in school is highly correlated with success in many other areas using a host of different measures. Health, longevity, average income, you name it. Pretty much all of the success indicators are correlated to each other in some fashion. So even if they hadn't measured other forms of success, the current state of biography research would predict it to be there. But they did measure, and it was there.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#29062833)

So your post really has nothing whatsoever to do with the article, or any of the statements or claims within.

Sure, he could taken the time to think about it carefully but getting that post out there in public is soooooo gratifying.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055241)

It would seem to me that "delayed gratification" would be en evolutionary tool that ensures people (or other animals) have thought out the situation appropriately and have truly made the best decision. If this is true, then people would be born with the tendency to prefer the satisfaction of knowing that eating marshmallow not only tastes good, but that it was the best decision for that scenario, as opposed to the kid who eats it and then wonders later "should I have just done that?"; the hasty kid still receives the same flavor, but the satisfaction is quickly interrupted by doubt.

However, teaching kids that this is the best way to do things is an exercise in behavior modification and will power: neither of which would be inherited at birth.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (2, Interesting)

ktappe (747125) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055393)

The question now becomes: Can you teach this concept of self discipline to kids or are they born with it?

Whether or not you can teach it, it's definitely possible to be born with it. I recall in 7th or 8th grade I took my Halloween candy plunderings and divvied them up among a dozen lunchbags, each labeled with week's date from then until Christmas. I delayed/stretched the sugar gratification from that one holiday through Thanksgiving until Christmas. My parents were flabbergasted, as they'd certainly never even considered such a thing, let alone taught it. To this day, I'm a hoarder of money and other assets. I actually feel guilt when I enjoy instant gratification. It's in my genes, no question.

Whether this always leads to success is another question, but I'm doing pretty well.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056117)

The biggest sugar gratification festival in Britain is Easter -- supermarkets tend to fill half an aisle or more with packaged chocolate eggs. I'd typically get about 4 eggs, so about 1kg of chocolate in total.

My sister would have eaten all hers by the end of the week. I'd eat one piece each day, and make it last for months :-).

I'm a bit of a hoarder, but typically only until a special occasion comes up, when I use everything I've hoarded (hint: get me drunk on my birthday, or the last day of a music festival, or new year's eve).

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Chees0rz (1194661) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056455)

This is exactly like my sister and me. My mom always tells the story of us going to the mall w/ 50$ each. Mom to Me: "what did you buy, how much did you spent?"
"Nothing, I think I am going to save it"
Mom to My sister: "And how about you?"
"I owe him 10 bucks"

I grew up saving quite a bit, and I'd always spend it all at once be it a TV in my bedroom when I was young, or $400 graphics cards in HS.
I am still good at saving, and still pick my toys, well.... but alas, going out to eat is now my weak spot.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056999)

That reminds me of when I was a teenager, which probably explains more about my spending habits than the easter eggs...

Me, to my mum: "why don't you ever give me any money? Everyone else's parents give them money."
Mum: "because you never spend it."

Instead I was meant to ask for stuff. But then, the stuff I wanted she wasn't willing to buy (Warhammer, Magic: the Gathering cards, computer stuff) or else I wasn't willing to ask for (stuff for gf/bf, alcohol, nightclub cover charge) or wouldn't accept (asking for £1.50 for the bus into town meant I'd get a lift, which was embarrassing by the time I was 15 and inconvenient to both of us).

I did occasionally get money — my grandparents would sometimes give me £10-£20 — but since I had no idea when I'd next get money I was very good at saving it. When I packed my stuff to leave home for university I found £50 that I'd hidden in a book and forgotten about.

(I could occasionally play off my mum's fear of me being outside:
"I'll get the bus back, it'll save you driving to the other side of [city] and I know you're busy"
"Oh, no! Don't — here's £15 for a taxi, and take my phone, here's £5 to top it up, call me when you're near."
Yay, ~£18 profit:-)

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 5 years ago | (#29059107)

Maybe you're "gratified" by counting your money and assets. If hoarding wasn't enjoyable there wouldn't be any collectors.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (2, Interesting)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061125)

I appreciate your stance, and it may be correct. But there is also the possibility that the behaviour was ingrained when you were very small and your brain was still in development.

For example:
  • When a baby is less than a year old and crawling for a ball, does the caregiver consistently get the ball for them, or is the baby allowed to make the effort to realise his own goal.
  • When a child starts walking proficiently, do the parents keep them in strollers or allow the time for the child to move place to place on their own.
  • If something is taken away, is it then given back after the baby has a fit? This could also ingrain the sense of, "I have to work to hold on to the things I want".
  • etc.

While I do think genetics definitely plays a role, I believe the importance of the first months & years of development is often seriously misunderstood.

In fact, many healthy and unhealthy traits seem to develop between 0-3 and many behavioural patterns can be changed up to age 6. But after 6, it is extremely difficult to change many things. This is most profoundly seen in children who were raised by animals and have no speech. Those helped after 6 years of age can gain massive vocabularies, but their grammar is always lacking. Those helped before 6 can acclimate fairly well.

This is also seen in cultural memes (such as the different body language of different cultures). Children will show definite cultural patterns in the first few years, and they are malleable (for example, if they are put into a different culture) until around age 6.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 5 years ago | (#29064769)

Exactly. It makes me wonder how formative this experiment was for the students.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29071369)

>> If something is taken away, is it then given back after the baby has a fit? This could also ingrain the sense of, "I have to work to hold on to the things I want".

That's a bit pop psychologish for my tastes. The studies I've heard reported about only children, for example, contradict the intuition that having the extra attention would make them more demanding of attention. It actually seems that they're less demanding of it, perhaps because they expect they'll get it eventually, whereas a child with siblings often has to work for the attention of their parents.

In your example, having the toy not come back could make it harder for the child to learn to share, because they learn that sometimes people take things and don't give them back.

In short, while formative experiences may be important, we don't often know exactly what influence they're having.

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 5 years ago | (#29071899)

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. But I feel like you're trying to disagree with something, so I'm confused =p

I even agree that the last example was a bit "pop psychologish", and that we don't know exactly what kind of influence that specific example would have. But if the behavior of the adult was repeated often enough, I believe there would be some kind of influence on that child's psyche. It's also the one example I'm not in favor of, as I believe it encourages "entitlement" whereas the other examples do not.

I also completely agree that extra positive attention makes a child less demanding of it. However the examples I was trying to focus on are in the development of the child's will; his ability to strive for and reach goals. This can be hindered by adults doing things for them, thinking that they're helping them. In reality they're often hurting the development of the child because the child doesn't get used to doing things for themselves.

Allowing the child to do things for themselves, does not contradict giving attention. We can love, hug, talk to, play with, etc. as much as we want, but when the child has an attainable task in mind, even if it's as simple as "get the ball that rolled away", a simple "You can do it!" is better for their development than giving in and doing it for them.

It certainly works in the reverse (case study): (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055587)

I personally would have avoided the marshmallow, at that age. However, my sister would often eat "more than her fair share" and eventually I simply gave up on having "savings" and these days am a glutton! Whereas my sister is much more reasonable with her consumption. Now, currently a university student, I have excessive problems with setting long term goals and following through on them. The psychiatrists, as you may expect, quickly stamp the attention disorder label on it.

Though, as touched on by another comment on this subject, my EQ has also substantially dropped since then, as I went through a stage of faith-destroying bullying in primary school. I'd like to argue that my IQ increased... but I've no concrete reason to believe let alone any evidence. :)

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055821)

The question now becomes: Can you teach this concept of self discipline to kids or are they born with it?

I'd say yes, and it can be ruined as well.

It can be trained if there's a reward at the end (e.g. higher mark, chance to enter university, etc.) For example, a student studies a difficult subject and then performs better in the course.

It can be ruined just as easily. If one can maintain at good marks without needing to study, there's no point in doing so. Forcing those students to study an easy subject creates latent feelings of "why am I doing this?" since there's no perceived benefit.

It can be broken entirely by encouraging the wrong path. For example, by having the student go through school/university only to realize that there's no job openings in the field he studied for, the student discovers the better option is taking a menial job in order to save for university (to claim experience and have reserve funds. .)

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056121)

As the first post, this post would have been very funny had it consisted entirely of "frist post" because I would venture to guess the people who get satisfaction out of exclaiming how they got the first post would be the same kids who eat the marshmallow within seconds...

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29057087)

No, the question is - can you teach BLACKS delayed gratification?

Say goodbye to your once safe country, libtards... Soon there will be nowhere left on Earth to run to, to get away from 'diversity'...

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

Espressoman (8032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29059015)

I am absolutely terrible at delaying gratification (ADHD side effect), but I have been very pleased to note that my 3 year-old does it routinely. When given a treat, he'll often have a nibble, and store the rest away for later. I suspect it's a fairly natural stage that kids go through, but it requires encouragement to become established for life. Similarly, kids will go through stages where they exhibit pretty negative traits, and parents should respond by discouraging those behaviors (don't hit your sister!).

Re:mmm... Marshmallos (1)

sarkeizen (106737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29065403)

Interesting you should mention that. I just read some of Walter Mischel's work available on google scholars.(Advances in experimental social psychology, Volume 7) they did an experiment where they measured the mean time children would wait based but asking them to think (or "ideate") with one of three modalities. i) Fun - that is think of something fun to do, ii) The reward - think of the thing they are going to get and iii) No particular instruction. They did this test with both the reward visible and obscured.

The results were kind of interesting: With the rewards visible - thinking about nothing was the worst strategy (to improve waiting time) or par with thinking about the rewards with the reward not visible. Thinking about something fun was the best strategy in either case but when the rewards weren't visible - no instruction was almost as good.

So to a degree it seems that it can be taught however it doesn't answer if this 'learned' behavior has the same effect (improvements in test scores, etc..) and it is difficult to verify that the child was actually thinking what they were asked to think about.

kids who waited did the wrong thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29066783)

The correct solution is to just eat as much candy as you can until the researcher returns. Kids who didn't do this did not find the best solution.

Now I want a marshmallow!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055063)

Damn you slashdot!

If you'd like to read more about this (4, Insightful)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055089)

There's a neat article in The New Yorker, about teaching self-control [] that discusses the marshmallow experiment in considerable detail. What I thought was interesting was that the original experiment was just to see how children dealt with self-control issues, but the psychologist realized, half a dozen years later, in talking to his children (who were part of the experiment) that the kids who had done well in the original experiment were doing much better in school than the kids who hadn't done well, and from that realization he managed to come up with a whole different group of observations and experiments. He ended up showing that there's evidence if you teach children how to distract themselves to increase their sense of self-control, you give them lifelong benefits in terms of decision-making, and those benefits show up in better grades, better jobs, and better health.

And if you don't like marshmallows? (4, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055141)

I had seen this previously, and always thought there was a flaw in the experiment...

I would have done very well in this simply because as a kid, I didn't really like marshmallows. Roasted on a fire, maybe... but raw? I could let that sit for as long as they wanted.

Fact is, the researchers didn't have a good enough budget. They got away with cheaping out on a couple bags of marshmallows instead of investing in some more sure-fire chocolate bars.

Then again, if somebody said I can't have a marshmallow, I might want it more... :)

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (1)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055179)

I believe they did the same experiment with various treats including marshmallows, Oreo cookies, and other things that I can't recall off the top of my head.

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (2, Funny)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055233)

Hot grits?

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (2, Funny)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055285)

I think 100% of study participants managed to avoid the temptation of dumping the hot grits down their pants

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (1)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055949)

I think 100% of study participants managed to avoid the temptation of dumping the hot grits down their pants

Not quite but oh did I try.

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056367)

Of course that's pretty easy, there was no naked, petrified Natalie Portman nearby.

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055671)

You're making quite an assumption here, assuming the researchers were too stupid to know they should filter out the kids who dont like marshmallows.

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (2, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055933)

If that's the case, then the conclusion would be: "Delayed gratification is a good indicator of future success, for people who like marshmallows." :P

Re:And if you don't like marshmallows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29056411)

You're making quite an assumption here, assuming the researchers were too stupid to know they should filter out the kids who dont like marshmallows.

You said stupid, not the other poster, you are assuming that's what he meant.

Eliminating the kids who did not like marshmallows from the study will skew the results, the sample needs to be statistically broad to draw any value from the conclusions. It should be noted if each child likes or dislikes the marshmallow, not simply excluding them. This allows you to determine if a like or dislike of the "Bribe" has any bearing on the behavior both during and after the initial experiment. They also failed to include any type of control group where no bribe was presented, although for this study a better control group would be the kids who HATE marshmallows, which would allow you to tell if the conclusions applied generally or just for these kids.

But that is a moot point, because if they DID filter the children, they failed to mention that in the results, which means the results are not a valid representation of the experiment. If they did NOT filter the children, then they have failed to account for a basic factor affecting the outcome, which was also foolish.

So either way, it's a FAIL.

Radio Lab (3, Informative)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055147)

I heard a segment about this study on Radio Lab [] a while back. Very interesting, but the conclusions aren't quite as dramatic as the summary really makes them out to be


Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055149)

So, this is like taking time off looking at porn to read the article?

Marshmallows are easy.. (4, Funny)

hahn (101816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055161)

So if you stuck the marshmallow on a square of chocolate and graham cracker and they are able to resist that, then perhaps we will have found a future POTUS?

Re:Marshmallows are easy.. (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055259)

Unlikely. If you believe the results of this study, you'll find someone who is probably going to be a thoughtful, forward-thinking, planning citizen. In other words, someone who would never be stupid enough to seek elected office, and if they were to do so they'd never get elected.

Both parties would hate to have someone who thinks and plans in the Presidency. He might be smarter than them and actually get something intelligent done, and what's the profit in THAT?

And if they just suck on the marshmallow (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055613)

If they just suck on the marshmallow, but don't swallow, they might be a past president!

Re:And if they just suck on the marshmallow (4, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056415)

If they just suck on the marshmallow, but don't swallow, they might be a past president!

Washington won't eat the marshmallow and sneers at your plebian tastes.

Jefferson lights the marshmallow on fire, then lights other marshmallows from it.

Lincoln rips the marshmallow in half, then eats it, demonstrating that a marshmallow divided cannot survive.

U.S. Grant knocks the marshmallow on the floor in a drunken stupor. It's still under one of the White House sofas.

Teddy Roosevelt eats the marshmallow immediately, and asks you for another... while staring you down and carrying a rifle.

Calvin Coolidge waits until you give him the second marshmallow, then eats both without comment.

Franklin Roosevelt starts an government organization called Marshmallow Making Men, and soon has more marshmallows than he knows what to do with.

JFK doesn't eat either marshmallow, and what he later did with them, a containert of chocolate sauce, and Marilyn Monroe is lost to history.

Nixon has G. Gordon Liddy take your entire bag.

Jimmy Carter says "No thanks, I prefer peanuts".

Ronald Reagan waits, and eats both marshmallows, but only after getting Nancy's approval.

Bush Sr. says he won't eat the marshmallow, but does.

Bush Jr. eats the marshmallow immediately, and looks utterly and pathetically confused when he doesn't get the second one.

Obama notes the whiteness of the marshmallow and accuses the researchers of trying to set him up.

Re:And if they just suck on the marshmallow (2, Funny)

Cor-cor (1330671) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060123)

Very nice, props to you sir. However, it seems you left out a few of my favorites.

Andrew Jackson eats the first marshmallow and declares that if you want to keep the second from him, you can enforce it with your army.

Rutherford Hayes eats his marshmallow just as you re-enter the room, and is awarded his prize only after you confer with your panel of co-researchers.

Grover Cleveland eats the first marshmallow, but gets his second when he comes back two days later.

William Howard Taft eats the marshmallow, then eats you, then gets stuck in the doorframe on the way out.

Warren Harding is dead when you come back.

You promise Herbert Hoover a second, but really just take away the first if he hasn't eaten it.

Gerald Ford tries to eat his marshmallow, but only manages to bite his tongue, fall down the stairs, and get shot at on the way out.

Re:And if they just suck on the marshmallow (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29071619)

But what about William Henry Harrison?

Re:And if they just suck on the marshmallow (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060987)

Wow, you had me going until the racist comment in the last line. If you're going to parrot Fox News talking points, you'd better be clean yourself [] .

Re:And if they just suck on the marshmallow (3, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061809)

I'm afraid Fox News didn't send me their list of talking points this week (I think Murdoch wants to charge for them), so I had to come up with that one all on my own. However, if you think there's any racism there, you're jumping at shado... oops, there I go again, right?

(In case anyone ELSE needs the joke explained, it's not implying that Obama is racist; it's implying that he's might be so concerned with image that he's afraid a black politician eating a white marshmallow would be read the wrong way, and paranoid enough to think that he's being given the marshmallow specifically for that purpose. Of course, considering Fox News, were the situation to come up he might actually be right.)

Re:And if they just suck on the marshmallow (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#29070349)

How did you miss Clinton?

When you come back after 15 minutes, Bill Clinton tells you he did not have sexual relations with that marshmallow.


Re:Marshmallows are easy.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29061393)

Depends on what kind of Potus you're talking about. A "G.W." Potus would have shoved the marshmellow into his mouth and gone "Gimme another one or I'm gonna call my daddy!" ;)

BS. (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055163)

No one is accounting for the fact that the second marshmallow may not only not be forthcoming, but that the original marshmallow might be taken away at the end of the interval, or even during the interval. Then the waiters are the ones with the poor decision process.

Why assume that the researchers are telling the truth? People who do psychological research on humans are a notoriously untrustworthy bunch.

It's that old saying (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055257)

Why is immediate satifaction better? Because self denial might pay off in the future, immediate gratification always pays off now. (Ok, so I've heard it said about procrastination.

Re:It's that old saying (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055699)

You have really no control over the "reward". Sure you can satisfy the terms of some "promise" that you are going to get that marshmallow. OTOH, the one that's right in front of you is something that can be trusted on.

The problem of depending on someone giving you something rather than going out and getting it for yourself.

Complaint trusting people certainly can be expected to do better in a simulated factory/army environment (school).

Re:It's that old saying (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 5 years ago | (#29057093)

I think you'd also find it does better in the "simulated' environment of most jobs, relationships, and structured civilized society. Most people and institutions I interact with on a given day are *not* trying to cheat me, and I would do pretty poorly in those situations if I assumed that they were. Now, that assumption probably does pretty poorly in the hood or in a war zone, but that's not what I'm planning on preparing my children for foremost.

Also, I'm pretty sure there's a high correlation between success in school and success in the real world, even though it definitely isn't 100%.

Re:It's that old saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29057807)

It's not that anyone is out to cheat you but everyone is out for themselves and if given the opportunity would pull a fast one over you. It is more visible in the 'hood' or the war zone you mentioned but if someone thinks they can get away with something (risk/reward). They will go for it. Every risk has a price.

Re:BS. (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056033)

It could be that that is part of the reason that the experiment is predictive.

In non-pathological environments, fairly large amounts of trust are mostly a good thing. Both psychologically, just because trust is more comfortable than paranoia, and socially, because most social activities require a modicum of trust to work effectively(playing a game with people you trust to be good sports is much more enjoyable than trying to build a ruleset that can restrain all cheaters without devolving into hardcore lawyering just sucks), and economically, because distrust effectively imposes deadweight losses(If I distrust you, I'll either have to vet you extensively, which costs money, or be offered a better than usual deal to offset my distrust, which, just as in the more typical taxation or monopoly examples, many transactions that would be mutually beneficial do not occur). Empirically, there has been some very interesting work on the correlation between levels of trust in a society and a society's economic success.

It wouldn't at all surprise me if, in aggregate(and under non-pathological social conditions), people who generally trust more easily mostly exhibit better outcomes in school and beyond(it would, of course, be very interesting to see if there is a class of notable outliers here, either high trust people who get shafted 24/7 or paranoid bastards who rise to the top, or both, possibly the latter feeding on the former). I'm sure self control is also a virtue in itself; but it could well be that self control plus social trust is even better.

As an aside, this is the reason(beyond any ethical/moral ones) that permitting fraud and deceit and dismissing them with an "eh, let the buyer beware" is a bad strategy. Trust is extremely useful, distrust is costly(but necessary if highly untrustworthy individuals are a danger). If trust is an irrational position in a given society, it will become progressively less common, leading to higher costs across the board.

Re:BS. (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056389)

Yes, some have made the argument that kids of lower socioeconomic status "fail" this test because they are more "street savvy" and less trusting, i.e. conditioned through experience that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

If this is true, it means those kids are being set up to fail in life, the exposure to shifty characters is conditioning them with behaviors that discourage long-term relationships, calculated long-term financial risks, etc.

You have proposed and disputed the notion that these kids are inherently morally inferior, which is only one interpretation, and I doubt it is the one most researchers would embrace.

Re:BS. (2, Interesting)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 5 years ago | (#29057725)

I talked to a psychologist who dealt a lot with disadvantaged kids, mostly from families with a drug addicted parent. Her observation was that, for these kids, delayed gratification was illogical, because the reward in the future was highly uncertain in these kids' families. For these kids, it makes sense to eat the marshmallow, because the parents' promise that another marshmallow is coming was unreliable.

Emotional Intelligence (1)

orta (786013) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055173)

The book Emotional Intelligence quotes that how good a kid is at delaying gratification between 2-5 has a better chance at identifying their SAT scores etc. Nothing too new here.

Marshmallows??? Yuck! (1)

SirWillae (74480) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055193)

This should go without saying, but I hope they tried to select kids with roughly the same taste for marshmallows. When I was a kid, you couldn't have paid me to eat a marshmallow. Even today, I don't particularly care for them. Except in rice krispy treats.

that was actually... (1)

Guse (1283076) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055199)

very, very interesting to watch. Thanks to the poster. I agree with a previous replier in that self-discipline isn't the *only* way to determine success, but it's a good one. And this probably is far more of a inborn thing than a learned trait.

I can tell you now I would have eaten the marshmallow, but then again it took till my late 20s to develop any sort of self-control.

Idle (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055203)

Why is this in idle? This is actually an intelligent study worthy of reading. I would prefer the NYT article than the video, but overall this should be front page.

Now give me that damn marshmallow.

Re:Idle (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060629)

Because they're trying to make idle not suck. And I think they're doing a good job!

Re:Idle (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 5 years ago | (#29064861)

At least, the layout is better than it was.

The most "successful" people are... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055245)

the ones who can take their own immediate gratification, while inducing others to delay gratification, and then use this to their long-term advantage. E.g. Wall Street

Very interesting (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055273)

I like the kid that ate the middle and pretended they had not.

I wonder if the real test is simply: How much do you like marshmallows, rather than how much self-control you have at age 4.

Re:Very interesting (1)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056021)

as long as self control > marshmallows, you were "successful". I think that the test was not testing the amount of self control, but whether a mechanism was in place to delay gratification until a greater goal had been met.

I think that the average slashdotter probably would not have eaten the marshmallow if they were taking the experiment seriously. Why? Because slashdot is populated by nerds who have gone through a great deal of learning and the like. There is some instant gratification available in computers, but the majority of it comes via consuming ready made content (youtube, twitter, facebook, etc), the more slashdotty stuff, i.e. dissecting/fixing computers, programming, and learning about them are not instant gratification. I mean it seems like there are 2-3 articles a week about a tech that will make our lives better in 5-15 years and not a day sooner.

Anywho, discussion of the average slashdotter aside, there are people who have no innate self control. None. Who do you thinks buys from qvc or those buy-now ads? Who do you think falls for internet scams? Those are the people who don't stop and think "this could be a scam" instead they're thinking either "Take my moneh, give me product!" or "Take my moneh, give me moar!". Sadly, these are the same people who make up the majority of the population, the ones who think a bail-out is a good idea, the ones who think maxing out their credit cards and re-mortgaging their houses up to 3x the real value are good ideas. In order to enact real change, you have to put off instant gratification because if a low-hanging-fruit quick-fix is available to be applied to the easy problems, it will be and as a result, they have all been applied. All that is left are the "hard"* problems.

*hard denoting silly things like abortion, gay rights, and other problems meant to distract the populace from fixing the real, boring problems.

A marshmallow in the mouth... (4, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055437)

is worth over two on the table.

Delaying gratification is a form of risk taking; you're taking the risk that by delaying gratification now, you'll get greater gratification later.

If your experiences have led you to believe that you won't actually get the greater gratification, it's irrational for you to delay it. If the marshmallow will go stale sitting there and the second one won't actually be forthcoming, eat it now. If your savings are going to be destroyed by inflation, taxes and stock market crashes, spend the money now. If work expands to fill all available time, procrastinate now (or when you get around to it, anyway).

Re:A marshmallow in the mouth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29055845)

I think it's a more general outlook on life. Given the example of grades:" Do I want to study hard now, or go play with my friends, even though I might screw up my tests".

The general idea is that the delayed reward is much much greater then the instant reward. On the long run, this should net you positive results.

Re:A marshmallow in the mouth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29058803)

Hard work usually pays off later. But procrastination always pays off now.

Re:A marshmallow in the mouth... (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 5 years ago | (#29062531)

Eat your all grains now, you will have none to plant next year.

Sometimes, instant gratification is guaranteed to be harmful or be sub optimal. Kids from experiment are great example to what it leads eventually and demonstrate that as overall strategy, it is inferior. Because most of the time, investment will pay itself.

And its not investment strategy really. It is hunter-gatherer instinct to use resources right now because they might not be there tomorrow. Misapplied to modern world. Kids acted on instinct, not on rationale. And that same kinds probably have problems in school because there was something fun to do "right now" instead of studying for distant future, not because they decided that wasting afternoon in front of telly now is better than going to college.

Re:A marshmallow in the mouth... (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 5 years ago | (#29063067)

If work expands to fill all available time, procrastinate now (or when you get around to it, anyway).

Just wanted to note that this is the primary lesson that primary and secondary schooling taught me, and I spent freshman year of university unlearning it. I'm still learning how to work on things immediately while maintaining a balance instead of just procrastinating.

Experiment needs a control (1)

SoVeryTired (967875) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055861)

As it was described there, the experiment is flawed: it doesn't necessarily test the ability to delay gratification for a larger reward.
They need to account for the percentage of kids who would not have eaten the marshmallow even without the possibility of a second marshmallow, i.e. the kids who aren't eating it because they were effectively told not to.

Re:Experiment needs a control (1)

goalsen (1555539) | more than 5 years ago | (#29061719)

This is a very well known study in the developmental psychology field and you can rest assured that there was a control group. If there wasn't then the results obviously couldn't be statistically significant, which is the entire point of experimental psychology fields, like developmental psychology. Precise details about the materials, methods, and descriptive and inferential statistics are provided in the original journal article. There is really no need in discussing such things when presenting to a non-specialist audience. This is effectively a dumbed down version of the real study, which is exactly the kind of presentation a physicist or geneticist would deliver for material from their field.

lOld (1)

Krokz (1568895) | more than 5 years ago | (#29055935)

Does a clip have to get on YouTube to get posted on /.? Its been on TEDs for months now... several speeches emphasized these theme in the past and like someone said, was widely distributed more then a decade ago in Goleman's bestseller Emotional intelligence.

In other who hate marshmallows do well (3, Informative)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056031)

In other news, kids who hate marshmallows do well in life!

the real question. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29056101)

He did test it on hispanic kids and found the result to be the same.

Good, but the logical thing would be to expand this test to more ethnic groups.

So, was that not done or were the results not political correct ?

From the youtuve comments: (1)

Pechkin000 (1304249) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056125)

Then there was the kid who sold his marshmallow for a blow job, theï kid who used it to buy protection from a bully, the kid who didn't like marshmallows, the kid who kicked the researcher in the balls and took the marshmallow bag, the kid who didn't show up for the experiment, the psychologist's son who hated himself because he wasn't worth a marshmallow and the kid who stole a marshmallow so it would seem like he hadn't eaten his.

Thank you (1)

nateb (59324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056229)

I just want to thank all of you that RTFA or WTFV and post here so I don't have to wait so long to see what this is all about.

Thanks! :)

I could wait until after work to read Slashdot... (1)

popo (107611) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056261)

... or I could say f*ck it and read it now.

Everyone here obviously knows that those enlightened souls who read Slashdot during the work-day are better educated about, y'know ... "Stuff that matters".. and will as a result be more successful.

Impatience is a virtue (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29056705)

People who are ambitious and impatient often get things done. Time has a value of it's own after all. Maybe a good businessman wouldn't eat the marshmallow but I bet most entrepreneurs would grab it up in the first few seconds. To them the time spent waiting for the second marshmallow holds more value than the marshmallow itself, it's only a constant factor of something that can be held in one's hand only providing a few seconds of gratification when consumed while time is something that cannot be grasped and held in place so is worth exponentially more. There aren't as many entrepreneurs as there are businessmen so the idea that success exists with respect to the business minded individual is assumed.

Just because some people give into what they want doesn't mean they can't at the same time be planning ahead or even finding the best of a number of snap solutions all at once to get something better. It's a different kind of will power, one that gets it's virility from impatience.

Re:Impatience is a virtue (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29071687)

I would argue with you, but I'm impatient to get this post submitted.

57th post! (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#29056745)

and thus have i demonstrated my cognitive superiority to you, mr. first post man

A similar experiment was attempted ... (0, Flamebait)

electricprof (1410233) | more than 5 years ago | (#29058341)

A similar experiment was recently tried with RIAA lawyers ... They were promised one billion dollars each if they could go for 1 hour without telling a lie. The experiment could never be completed. The lab techs couldn't go 5 minutes without killing the lawyers.

Sacrifice to prevent future pain (1)

xdancergirlx (872890) | more than 5 years ago | (#29058817)

For someone like me, who hated marshmallows, the experiment would have ended up being a bit different. I would have asked myself: Can I bear to eat one marshmallow now so that I don't have to eat two later on?

Is the fact that the video keeps hanging- (1)

tuatara222 (448203) | more than 5 years ago | (#29059571)

-a little test of my own ability to delay gratification?
I think I'd have waited forever to eat that marshmallow as a little kid- but spoiled by broadband as a grown-up, I'm annoyed that a 7-minute video is taking too long...

so realizing this (1)

iplayfast (166447) | more than 5 years ago | (#29060721)

If I now realize that I'm a marshmellow eater, can I start recognizing that behavior and correct it. Thereby becoming more successful and have a happier life?

I had one child who went into the Montessori school and one of the things that they do, is not let you go onto the next activity until you've mastered the current one. These activities are all in very incremental steps and by the time he entered kindergarden he was able to add subtract, read and write, and had a basic understanding of multiplication. He is the brightest of my children and I wish that the other two had the same experience.

The point is that part of the Montessori method, is delayed gratification, you can't try the net neat thing until you've mastered this one.

I think were missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29061905)

Do the ones who wait 15 minutes for the second marshmallow get to ring a bell? Cause thats the deal-breaker.

Frist Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29062223)

First post... sob, I am doomed... my life is ruined... I just can't control my refresh urges...

Tantric Sex? (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 5 years ago | (#29063995)

Wait... what? Someone on /. tagged this with Tantric sex?

Need a Karma Whore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29064723)

Could someone please watch the video and post a text summary for those of us without the ability to watch video at the moment? What incentive did the children have for not eating the marshmallow? Were they promised a reward, or merely told they'd get in trouble, what?

learning self control (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29064757)

I sometimes wonder if I learn self control as a kid when I had to wait 30ish minutes for a game to load from tape on my c64 (prior to the turbo loaders which would do it in about 5mins).

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#29097169)

But what about William Henry Harrison?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>