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Marshmallows Revisited

November 1, 2012

Children in the classic “Stanford Marshmallow Study” may have been more strategic than we thought.



A new take on a landmark study.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment” was a classic study of delayed gratification: Preschoolers tried to resist eating one marshmallow, in order to earn two later.  The children’s success was largely attributed to impulse control.  ButUniversityofRochestercognitive scientist Celeste Kidd wasn’t so sure.

CELESTE KIDD (UniversityofRochester):

It could’ve been the case that kids were simply incapable of waiting. Alternatively, young children could be capable of making a decision about whether waiting or not would be worth it.

To find out, she and her colleagues repeated the marshmallow experiment. But first, the kids got to color, while a researcher either delivered or reneged on a promise to bring them nicer crayons. When the adult kept his or her word, the child was much more patient in the subsequent marshmallow test. The results suggest that the reliability of the adults around them can strongly influence children’s self-control.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

The reliability of the adults in their lives may influence childrens' self-control. (Jupiter Images)