Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Marshmallow Test (Patience Has Its Reward)

Dr. Walter Mischel from Stanford University conducted an extensive research on psychology more than forty years ago. In one of the study, a researcher came into a room with a four-year-old kid, presented him/her a marshmallow and tell him/her this “you can have the marshmallow now, or you can wait for fifteen minutes while I run some errands and when I come back, you can have two instead.”

As expected, some of the kids ate the marshmallow at the very second the guy left the room, some of them waited for a while then ate them. However, there are also a group of kids that waited for the whole fifteen minutes. They distract themselves by closing their eyes, singing a song, or even tried sleeping. Eventually the researcher came back and they can have two. You can have a look at the replicated study in the five-minute video below:

The study did not end there. About fourteen years after, Dr. Walter Mischel made another study on the group of kids that patiently waited for two marshmallows. The result was astoundingly shocking as these kids generally grew up to be better adjusted, more popular, adventurous, confident and dependable teenagers. And not only that, on another further test, they scored an average of 210 points higher in their SAT compared to the other group of kids.

The marshmallow experiment is a simple reminder to not get distracted with things that are tempting but not important.

It also displays patience (aside from many other lessons). In life, how often we fall for the temptation of raising up our voice, pulling out the harsh-demeaning words, and forgoing the chance to cultivate a long-term fruitful relationship. We easily curse on people, our subordinates, or partner simply to shout out our superiority, our pride, but how long does the superiority and the pride stands? It quickly vanished the moment that person left the room. When we show patience, we acknowledged everyone is imperfect, and at the same time we give room for progress.

To sum up, in Gary Chapman’s words “…when we love authentically, our attitude reflects on our ability to focus on what is most important at the moment and patiently wait when necessary”. What is more important might means the project that you are working with your colleague, or the constructive relationship you can have with your partner or your spouse. So, when the temptation arise, know that patience has its reward.

Smile on, shine on. = )


  1. I like this part: show patience - >acknowledge imperfect -> progress. :D

  2. This is cool. Seriously.

  3. I'm tempted to try it on kids at Sunday School. See what they become 15 years from now. =p

  4. I'm tempted to try it on kids at Sunday School. See what they become 15 years from now. =p


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