How Long Can You Resist A Marshmallow?

By Meera Dolasia on August 20, 2012

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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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582 Comments
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  • billygoat500Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 7:18 pm
    It really would depend, is it a roasted one, or a regular one
    • sherlockcutepup
      sherlockcutepupWednesday, February 25, 2015 at 3:08 pm
      my parents didn't let me have a marshmallow for a whole year or two.
      • aphphilippines
        aphphilippinesWednesday, February 25, 2015 at 9:56 am
        I'll problally be able to resist it for an hour.I'm not a big fan of marshmallows.
        • zoella
          zoellaWednesday, February 25, 2015 at 5:28 am
          That depends if i'm super hungry I wouldn't last 30 seconds if its like im a little hungry I could last 2 hours
          • robloxer1563
            robloxer1563Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm
            wow! i could survive like an hour or more not eating a marshmallow
            • llvd
              llvdTuesday, February 24, 2015 at 9:57 am
              I can't resist at all. I LOVE MARSHMALLOWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MARSHMALLOWS FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
              • hiTuesday, February 24, 2015 at 5:56 am
                cool.
                • ginnypandas444
                  ginnypandas444Monday, February 23, 2015 at 6:55 pm
                  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!
                  • bigmelo
                    bigmeloWednesday, February 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm
                    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
                    • bigmelo
                      bigmeloWednesday, February 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm
                      Oops! I almost forgot. I'll follow you! :)
                    • crystalmori
                      crystalmoriMonday, February 23, 2015 at 8:04 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.
                      • sherlockcutepup
                        sherlockcutepupWednesday, February 25, 2015 at 3:11 pm
                        you are right Crystalmori my parents don't let me do things that are not my age.
                    • LillyMonday, February 23, 2015 at 5:57 pm
                      I would last forever because I don't eat them.
                      • taco_x
                        taco_xMonday, February 23, 2015 at 5:40 pm
                        i can only do like an hour then i explode

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