The Marshmallow Test: Exploring the Question at the Heart of Delayed Gratification


The Marshmallow Test, originally conducted in the late 1960s, has become one of the most famous and enduring experiments in psychology. In this test, children were given a choice between getting one marshmallow immediately or waiting 15 minutes to receive two marshmallows. Over the years, the test has been an important tool for exploring the concepts of self-control, delayed gratification, and impulse control. In this article, we will explore the question at the heart of the Marshmallow Test and its broader implications for understanding human behavior.

The Marshmallow Test and Delayed Gratification: Exploring the Importance of Self-Control

Delayed gratification refers to the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward in order to obtain a larger, more important reward in the future. In the Marshmallow Test, this concept was tested by giving children a choice between receiving one marshmallow immediately or waiting to receive two marshmallows after a short delay.

The original Marshmallow Test explored the relationship between delayed gratification and self-control. The results showed that children who were able to wait for the larger reward had better self-control and were more likely to be successful in various domains later in life, such as academic achievement and social skills.

Can Delayed Gratification Predict Success in Life? Insights from the Marshmallow Test

Since the original Marshmallow Test, many studies have attempted to link delayed gratification with success in life. While some studies have found a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and success, other studies have found no significant relationship between the two.

It is important to note that delayed gratification is just one of many factors that can contribute to success in life. Factors such as intelligence, motivation, and socioeconomic status can all play a role. Therefore, it is important to view delayed gratification as one piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to predicting success in life.

Understanding the Marshmallow Test: What is the Question at the Heart of this Classic Psychological Study?

The original question asked in the Marshmallow Test was whether a child’s ability to delay gratification and wait for a larger reward was predictive of future success. However, over the years, the question has been interpreted in different ways.

Some researchers have focused on the ability to delay gratification as a trait that is relatively stable across different situations and contexts. Other researchers have focused on the environmental and contextual factors that can influence a child’s ability to delay gratification. For example, a child who has been given unreliable promises in the past may be less likely to trust that waiting will lead to a larger reward.

The Power of Patience: How the Marshmallow Test Shaped Our Understanding of Impulse Control

The findings of the Marshmallow Test have broader implications for understanding impulse control and self-regulation. Impulse control refers to the ability to resist immediate temptations and regulate one’s emotions and behaviors.

The Marshmallow Test has been used to explore impulse control in various domains, including education, addiction, and mental health. For example, research has shown that children who have better impulse control are more likely to do well in school and have better social skills. In addition, studies have shown that individuals with addiction and mental health issues often have difficulties with impulse control.

The Marshmallow Test Revisited: Re-examining the Research and Discovering New Insights

Recent research has attempted to replicate or build upon the original Marshmallow Test. Some of these studies have supported the original findings, while others have challenged the interpretation of the results.

For example, a 2018 study showed that the ability to delay gratification was not as stable across different situations as previously thought. The researchers found that children who had better impulse control in one situation did not necessarily have better impulse control in other situations.


The Marshmallow Test has had a significant impact on our understanding of self-control and impulse control. The original question at the heart of the test – whether a child’s ability to delay gratification is predictive of future success – has led to a wealth of research exploring these concepts in greater depth.

While delayed gratification is not the only factor that contributes to success in life, it is an important skill to cultivate. For readers who want to improve their own self-control and impulse control skills, practicing delayed gratification can be a helpful tool. This can involve setting small goals and delaying gratification for small rewards in order to build up the ability to resist immediate temptations.

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