Marshmallow. It has been used by schools across the country for several years to help build an edible DNA model, probability problems or geometric shapes, but now Marshmallow plays a completely different role in the education world. It is called the marshmallow restraint experiment and it makes a statement in classroom across the country.
The Marshmallow experiment was conducted first by Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology in Stanford, in the 1960s with a number of four years. He would have a child sitting at a desk with a plate and a marshmallow and tell them that they could either eat marshmallow at that time or wait until he returns. If they were to wait, he would give them a second marshmallow.
What we really measure with marshmallows is not willpower or self-control ... Its much more important than that. This task forces children to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the other marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can not control the world, but we can control how we think about it, says Mischel.
Many children struggled to resist treatment and could only keep an average of three minutes. Many tried to distract themselves from the treatment by placing their hands over the face or turning around the chair so that they would not have to look at the candy. Others would kick on the desk, pull together or play with the hair or play with marshmallow. Some kids even when they smelled marshmallow or lick it, but do not take a bite.
Some children ate marshmallow right away, remembers Mischel. Other children were gazing straight at Marshmallow.
However, about thirty percent of the children who participated in the experiment were expecting to eat marshmallow successfully until the researcher returned, sometimes over 15 minutes later.
Since 1981, Mischel sent out a questionnaire to all parents, teachers and academic advisors for the children who had participated in the marshmallow experiment, all of which were in high school. He questioned them about a number of characteristics, from the childs ability to plan, organize and think ahead for their ability to manage emotionally with challenges or problems they face and how well they meet with their peers. He also requested to see their S.A.T. rating. For Mischels surprise, the third of the children who was fastest to eat marshmallow during the experiment made an average of 524 verbal and 528 mat. The children who had self-control and were waiting to eat their treatment did an average of 610 verbal and 652 matte. He also noticed that those children who could not wait seemed more likely to have behavioral problems at school and at home. They often had trouble paying attention, found it difficult to maintain friendship and could not handle stressful situations very well. Other researchers who have looked at this study have also found that those unable to wait grew up to have a significantly higher body mass index and were more likely to have problems with drugs.
That being said, Mischels experiment became an instant success and is still very famous today. So much so that teachers start performing this experiment in their own classroom. The experiment is now given to a wide range of students, not just four year olds. Many teachers use this experiment as a lesson for their students to learn self-control and patience.
A New York City teacher uses the experiment to show his older students how self-control will be needed in a variety of situations throughout life if it is not to go out and play their homework first or keep calm when a future employee does them upset for some reason. I think we will see this exercise done much more in classes around the country because schools are now responsible for teaching students lessons, not just educational materials such as mathematics or science. So with that said, we hope to start seeing more children who can resist temptation and wait to eat marshmallow.