Marshmallows, Kids, and the Science of Self-Control


Since the late 1960s, marshmallows have been a symbol of temptation thanks to a series of experiments on delayed gratification conducted at Stanford University. Now, those groundbreaking tests are the subject of a new book,  The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control,  by the experiments’ designer, psychologist Walter Mischel.

Sound a bit wonky? Well, five years ago, the famous test was illustrated in adorable form, as you can see in this video: A child is handed a single marshmallow, and told she or he can eat it immediately or receive a second fluffy confection if (s)he waits to chow down. (Cue lots of squirming, staring, and uncomfortable expressions.)

But what does it mean? Well, in 2006, 40 years after his original 60s-era study, Mischel revisited the same children and found that those who delayed marshmallow-y gratification during the original test tended to have higher SAT scores, higher grade-point averages at college graduation, lower body-mass indexes, and made more money after college.

The book’s takeaway? Self-control is a good thing. And in case you have a lot of it in reserve, here are a few marshmallow recipes. You know, for a rainy day.

We’ll just leave these marshmallows on the table.