The Marshmallow Test



What does resisting the temptation to eat a marshmallow have to do with the ability to succeed? How important is it to teach our children self-control and the ability to delay gratification?

Some 40 years ago, a psychologist devised an unusual test of self-control. Walter Mischel set a plate with a marshmallow before preschoolers and then told them he had to leave the room for a few minutes. He gave each child a challenge.

If you wait until I return. I will give you another marshmallow. If you just can’t wait, ring this bell and someone will come immediately—but you will have only one marshmallow.


Two-thirds of Mischel’s subjects gave in to the excruciating temptation, rang the bell and ate the marshmallow. Only one out of three mustered enough will-power to delay gratification.

In which group would you have fallen, a mere 4 or 5 years old faced with a mouth-watering delight and no one else in the room except Jiminy Cricket whispering in your ear, “Don’t eat it!”?

Mischel revisited his ‘marshmallow subjects’ as adolescents. The teenagers who had passed ‘The Marshmallow Test’ as preschoolers scored higher on the SAT and displayed a “greater ability to plan, handle stress, respond to reason, exhibit self-control in frustrating situations and concentrate without becoming distracted.” (Source)

Mischel and several colleagues tracked down 59 of the original ‘marshmallow kids’ who were now in their 40s. Were the attributes displayed as successful, high-achieving youth still active as adults?

Amazingly, the character qualities that marked their adolescent years continued into adult life. Those preschoolers who just couldn’t resist the marshmallow “performed more poorly on the self-control task as adults.” Those who were able to delay gratification became successful, well-balanced and happy adults.

The ability to delay gratification has long-term positive consequence.

QUESTION: How can we cultivate the ability to delay gratification in our children?


These short videos will interest and amuse you.

(1) The Marshmallow Test <>

(2) What about Hispanic children? <>

(3) What about Canadian children? <>

(4) The implications? <>