Monday, June 4, 2012

The Marshmallow Test

Now from time to time, one might get an inclination to perform random psychological tests on one's child, and why not, I say. All in the name of science. We were recently inspired to perform the so-called "Marshmallow Test" on Declan. It is an experiment developed at Stanford in the early 70's to test a child's executive function, the degree of self-control he has, which as it turned out, is a strong predictor of later life outcomes.  The test put 4 to 6 year olds in an empty room, with only a marshmallow to keep them company.  They are allowed to eat the marshmallow if they want, but they are told if they don't eat the marshmallow, they will get two marshmallows in 15 minutes.  In the original experiment, a third of the kids ate the marshmallow right away, another third delayed for some time, but ate the marshmallow before the 15 minutes were up, and the final third were able to hold off for the 15 minutes and earn the second marshmallow.  Then they followed the kids for the next 40 years (!) and were able to determine that those kids who ate the marshmallow right away were more likely to suffer from addiction, and the kids that were able to delay the gratificaiton had more social and academic success in their lives.  So since Declan was the right age, although at the very bottom of the range in the original experiment, we figured we would replicate it at home and see whether I was going to be interviewed on an episode of Intervention 20 years from now.  

We were pretty sure that Declan would be an immediate marshmallow eater.

To verify our hypothesis, we put Declan in our guest bedroom, and luckily we had already intalled a hidden video camera in there, so we could just use that.  Oh what, guests, you didn't know we were watching you?  Just kidding.  I put a Flip cam on the bureau across from the bed.   


This video is extraordinarily long (spoiler alert!) so dont feel compelled to watch it, but for Nicole there is a part about 5 minutes in that will amuse. 


  1. Way to go, Declan! This is hilarious. What a difference a year can make--I can't even imagine Sadie staying in a room with nothing to do for 15 minutes, marshmallow or no. Maybe you should archive this video for future encouragement during Declan's impulsive teen years.

  2. I love it! That kid is a genius. Should we arrange Abbey and Declan's marriage now?

  3. Oh my goodness. The crossing of the legs, the longing stares at the marshmallow...he is the cutest! And such excellent executive function!

  4. Ha- you are all too kind! Nicole - did you catch the part about 4 and a half minutes in where Declan starts reading off the wall? "Never fall in love at the Jersey Shore" He's really learned a lot from you!

  5. That's what I thought he said, but I wasn't sure. Those are words to live by. Trust me, the Jersey Shore is no place to fall in love. I was there with Mike in the late 90's and now look what happened!

  6. OMG - he is the cutest little guy ever. What discipline - I could see and feel his longing for that damn marshmallow. That is me on day 3 of any diet program and I usually cave to any blob of sugar. As a bonafide Jersey shore girl, I can second Nicole's statement - truer words have never been spoken :-)