How Long Can You Resist A Marshmallow?

By Meera Dolasia on August 20, 2012

CCSS NAS-6 Grades: 3-8 Word Search

How long can you resist a marshmallow? For a minute, maybe two - How about 20 minutes? Believe it or not, the answer to that simple question, could shape your entire future - At least that, is the conclusion reached by University of Stanford scientist Walter Mischel the brainchild behind the now legendary 'Stanford Marshmallow' test.

The unusual experiment was conducted by the psychologist between 1968-1970. Children between the ages of 4-6 were invited individually and seated at a table inside a room that had a single marshmallow (or even cookie or pretzel if that is what they preferred) on a plate. They were told that if they could resist the treat for 20 minutes, they would be rewarded with another. Those that that were unable to wait, simply had to ring a bell that lay in front of them before devouring it. They would however receive no additional treats. The scientist would then sneak out and watch the kid's behavior from a one-way mirror.

What they observed was that only about a third of the kids were able to wait out the 20 minutes and that the older the child was, the better his/her resistance power. However, what was even more interesting is that most, no matter how young, did wait it out at least for a little while. Very few, gobbled the marshmallow right away.

That of course, was just the beginning of the study that has been ongoing since. Many years later, the scientist followed up with the parents of the now-grown kids with a detailed questionnaire. What he found was that those that had been able to resist the marshmallow for the full 20 minutes, were thought to be more competent by their parents, than the others. Things got even more interesting a few years later, when he discovered that the marshmallow resisters all scored an average of 210 points higher on their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores than the rest of the group. Not only that, they were also better at planning and, handling stress.

Recently, Tanya Schlam at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health along with some of her colleagues decided to contact the same group for a totally different purpose - To see whether the self-control had continued into adulthood and therefore helped them maintain a healthy weight. Sure enough, they found it was directly related to the minutes they were able to hold off eating the marshmallows. Who knew that scoffing down a marshmallow when you were just four could affect your entire life!

Resources: Telegraph.co.uk, nydailynews.com, slate.com

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609 Comments
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  • racer11
    racer11Monday, May 18, 2015 at 6:24 pm
    look at video kid ignores adult and just eats it right away that child can"t resist lol
    • pronomario
      pronomarioSaturday, May 16, 2015 at 4:32 pm
      I don't like marshmallows as much so I can resist
      • shakeitoff21
        shakeitoff21Friday, May 15, 2015 at 6:39 am
        I will never be able to resist a marshmallow it would be way to hard for me to resist. NEVER EVER WILL I BE ABLE TO RESIST A MARSHMALLOW!
        • racer11
          racer11Monday, May 18, 2015 at 6:23 pm
          MARSHMALLOW RESISTANCE for me : 10 minutes it depends if i am hungry thou
        • yummy···*I resiTuesday, May 12, 2015 at 6:54 pm
          That little kid is BOSS!!!!**********
          • pronomario
            pronomarioSaturday, May 9, 2015 at 5:51 pm
            I can resist a marshmallow
            • forestgump
              forestgumpMonday, May 4, 2015 at 6:26 pm
              I could so resist a marshmallow but not a peanut butter cup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
              • jaja101
                jaja101Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 4:05 pm
                I love marshmallows they are so creamy and bouncy and I can never get enough. They are so good with smores and cream for anything if you melt them. The answer is yes marshmallows are just to irrestible to me!!
                • wildizy
                  wildizyTuesday, April 21, 2015 at 10:09 am
                  i could not wait that long if it had been a peep!
                  • diamondkid
                    diamondkidMonday, April 20, 2015 at 2:26 pm
                    Actually, I think people are able to resist things better with age, too. Or rather, it just becomes easier to make your own decisions once you have your own values and opinions. Like, before, I could never play violent video games. (I don't like violence anyway, and besides, my parents wouldn't let me) Now I can handle it because I know that I value the lives of well, everyone/thing and my mind just shuts it out. This way I can watch dark stuff without being corrupted by the darkness therein. Resistance in this way is very important, and I am glad I had the chance for it to develop undeterred. WOW. Scientists have a weird habit of just finding any random, totally crazy thing to test like people actually care about them! Like this marshmallow test! I mean, it's funny and entertaining, but in my opinion, who actually needs to know this? Scientists think that this article is proof that the older people get the more resistant they get, but I think this is proof that Scientists find totally irrelevant things. Please follow me! You're absolutely right in which scientists find the craziest things to test people on, but all of these tests represent certain traits & behavior involving our own future. Also, we should care about scientists, because if we didn't have them, we wouldn't have most of the things we have today. So, we should thank & be thankful for the diverse world of scientists - they have provided for us a great amount of discoveries every single day. :D
                    • nick483
                      nick483Monday, April 20, 2015 at 1:17 am
                      I would not eat it cause not a mush mellow fan unless it is with ice cream

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