Marshmallow Experiment More Nuanced

English: Marshmallows

English: Marshmallows (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NPR aired a piece on delayed gratification in children.  Researchers presented 4 year olds with a marshmallow and gave them two choices 1) eat it now or 2) wait 15 minutes and get two.   The results were mixed: some kids couldn’t help themselves and gobbled it down; others waited patiently.  The difference in the responses were thought to be genetic and had to do with brain chemistry.  Recent thinking on this, however, has changed and it appears kids can be taught patience and strategic planning – to look at the big picture.  Kids don’t have to live in the moment.   Now back to the marshmallow experiment.  I don’t think all kids would just snatch the marshmallow like a sugar addicted junkie.  Most kids would be curious and likely ask a series of questions before making a decision.  Here’s how it might go with a typical kid:

Researcher:  You can eat one now or have two in 15 minutes.

Kid: Where did you get it?

Researcher: From the store.

Kid: Where?  What store?

Researcher: It doesn’t matter.

Kid: Where’s the bag? You can’t buy them out of the bag.  How do I know it’s safe?  I got one trick or treating but my mom wouldn’t let me eat it.

Researcher: Why not?

Kid: Poison needle in it.

Researcher:  This one is safe.

Kid: Do you have a campfire, because if you do, I’ll wait for two.

Researcher:  No, I don’t have a campfire.

Kid: My brother once drank some soda and it came out his nose.

Researcher: One or two.

Kid: Just one soda, no not even like one sip.  I can burp, you want to hear?

Researcher:  Do you want one or two.

Kid: That depends.  Can I hold it first?

Researcher:  No.  Either eat it or wait.

Kid: I don’t like marshmallows.  Do you have anything else?

Researcher:  No.

Kid:  Then I’ll take two.

Researcher:  Then you will have to wait.

Kid:  Can I go now?

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