Marshmallows predict future success? Well, not the marshmallows themselves, but marshmallows were used as an appetitive stimuli in studies of delayed gratification to predict future success. Walter Mischel conducted the original "marshmallow experiment" in 1966, yet the experimental process has been replicated numerous times and continues to be an active topic of research today (Powell, Honey, & Symbaluk, 2013, p. 412). The marshmallow experiment features a preschool-aged child sitting at a table, while a researcher enters and places a marshmallow in front of the child. The researcher tells the child that they can eat the single marshmallow now, or can wait until the researcher returns and receive two marshmallows. Waiting for the second marshmallow, an example of the demonstration of delayed gratification, has been linked to adolescent success and social and cognitive competencies. The children who display delayed gratification, and waiting for the research returned to receive two marshmallows, were shown in adolescence to be more, "academically and socially competent, verbally fluent, rational, attentive, playful, and able to deal with frustration" (Mischel, Shoda, & Peake, 1988). The competencies displayed by children who demonstrate delayed gratification in their preschool years caused for national and international attention, especially in the past ten years, as the concept of delayed gratification was included in parenting texts and news broadcasts. It still is to be discovered the causal explanation for why delayed gratification results in greater future success, yet it teaches us all something about the importance of development during the preschool years and the behaviors that we reinforce for our children during that time.
Kids' funny reactions during the marshmallow experiment.
Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, p. k. (1998). The Nature of Adolescent Competencies Predicted by Preschool Delay of Gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(4), 687.
Powell, R. A., Honey, P. L., & Symbaluk, D. G. (2016). Introduction to Learning and Behavior. Cengage Learning.