The Marshmallow Test’ Is Under the Scanner

A recent research on the famous Marshmallow test is all set to prove its observations wrong.

This milestone research from the Stanford University that was said to have withstood the test of time for about 50 years is now on shaky grounds.

Researchers from the University of Rochester have set up a study and published their findings in the latest edition of the journal Cognition.

The-Marshmallow-TestThe Marshmallow Test

This test involved an experiment by the researchers at Stanford on young children, to prove that those who show self control early in life will emerge as successful adults. The experiment involved giving a group of young children a single marshmallow.

While most children finished the treat and pestered for the next, a handful of them nibbled at it slowly and spent their time playing with the treat while they waited for the second one to arrive.

This observation was extrapolated to larger social science scenario and led to further research which ultimately ended in the conclusion that preschoolers who exhibited delayed gratification of a simple task (such as waiting to eat a marshmallow to receive a second one later) are more likely to succeed in life than the others.

This waiting was correlated to better social skills, academic performance and less prone to substance abuse. The test was conducted in the late 1960s and has since been used as a measure of intelligence in IQ tests worldwide.

Latest Research on the Marshmallow Test

5 decades later, the researchers at the University of Rochester have raised a valid point and said that the behavior of the few children to delay gratification might be attributed to stable home environments and adult supervision and not due to their own intelligence level. In other words, while some children may have the innate nature to delay gratification, others might have just been responding to based on their previous experiences where waiting was just not an option.

They went on to elaborate that such kids were just treating this as one of the many unreliable situations that they routinely face. Those who are more exposed to structured and reliable environments were likely to wait 4 times longer (about 12 minutes) before asking for a second helping of the treat.

For this purpose the scientists set up a test where 2 groups of 28 children under 5 years were subjected to a repeat of the same test. One group consisted of children whose parents always kept their promises and the other consisted of children whose parents never delivered anything. The results were a reiteration of what has been explained above.


The final conclusion of this study can be summed up with the popular saying –make hay while the sun shines. Why wait when you are not sure of the next treat? In fact, in such a scenario, if the child behaved otherwise then his intelligence is questionable. It is just a reflection of the adaptation of the child to his or her environment.


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