Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lessons learned from the 'marshmallow test'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 2:00 PM

I’ve always been fascinated with the “marshmallow test.” That’s the 1960’s study out of Stanford University where children could have one marshmallow or double their reward if they delayed their gratification for 20 minutes or so.

The study has spurred all kinds of psychological theories and predictions over the years, with some suggesting that the child who is able to delay gratification will grow up to be a more confident, stronger, and successful adult. Conversely, the child who eats the treat right away is more likely to be a weak and self-indulgent adult.

But researchers at the University of Rochester revisited the marshmallow test a few years ago and reached a slightly different conclusion.

They discovered that children who delay gratification are responding to environmental factors. When children trusted the researcher and felt that he or she was reliable, they waited to get the larger reward.

If they didn’t feel they could trust the researcher, they took the treat and ran with it, so to speak.

That theory behind the marshmallow test is being re-examined again by a group of Washington, DC, educators, according to a recent Washington Post article, who see it as an “antidote to the stressful and chaotic lives of many children.”

For instance, one teacher visits students at home and builds trust with them as a way to help the children manage stress and make better choices, which could lead to better academic outcomes.

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