The Marshmallow Experiment was developed by psychologist Walter Mischel in the 60s and 70s, when he was a professor at Stanford University.
Walter Mischel had tested the ability of preschoolers (with an average age of 4 years and a half) to resist the temptation of eating a marshmallow, they could eat it right away or wait 15 minutes until the experimenter returned. If they waited, they would get an extra marshmallow. A child out of three was able to resist and wait the time set to get a second marshmallow. Here’s an experiment conducted after the model of the 60s:
After 10-15 years, the psychologist had searched those persons (subjects) to see how they are doing in their personal, social and professional lives. Those who had managed to resist the temptation were significantly more successful in all areas of their lives than the others. It seems that a key element in obtaining success is the ability of self-control that is based on expectations for a delayed reward.
Here is a brief description of the experiment and a suggestion about how to use its results in changing education techniques.
This experiment was repeated over and over again on subjects of different ages. The results were always the same with those of the first experiment. Here is another example:
Train your self-control “muscle”
The researchers demonstrated in experiments with young people (students) that suppression is difficult to maintain over time because it leads to higher energy consumption. However, suppression is easier if we train our self-control muscle which helps to inhibit unwanted urges and impulses. This training is easy: you just have to get involved in something you do not like a lot for a few minutes, a few minutes a day for several weeks. Why is this simple exercise so effective?
The idea behind this training is that repeated training of will is that you get used to doing things that are not the result of your initial instincts or your desires. Through this exercise you learn to resist alternative temptations and keep doing things you wanted most to do. For example, if someone doesn’t clean his room with pleasure will be helped if they take a few minutes a day for cleaning. So, cleaning becomes sort of a habit that usually does not require much energy and other desires become less urgent.
It is important that self-control muscle training in a field (for example, cleaning) it is transferred into other areas of behavior. Therefore, if Mr./Mrs T. sets the table for dinner every night (something that she doesn’t like to do) for several weeks in a row instead to sitting in front of T.V. until dinner, there are more chances for him/he to become more efficient in their ability to resist the temptation of eating candy while watching TV for example.