Whole Brain Catalog

Eat This!

A psychological test of temptation.

In 1968 Stanford psychology professor Walter Mischel tempted hungry four-year-olds with a delicious deal. His researchers placed children, one at a time, in a room where they sat alone with a puffy white marshmallow. The children were told that they could either eat the marshmallow right away or they could wait for fifteen minutes – at which point they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. Then the researcher left the room.

One third of the children gobbled up the marshmallow right away.

One third controlled their appetites for a little while but eventually caved.

One third resisted temptation for the full fifteen minutes and received their reward.

Thirteen years later Mischel did follow-up research that found dramatic differences between the two groups (the gobblers and the resisters). The gobblers, now high school students, were more likely to have behavioral problems and low attention spans, and they found it difficult to maintain friendships. Meanwhile the resisters were thriving. They averaged 210 points higher on their SAT scores than the gobblers. Mischel continued tracking these groups into their late thirties and found that, as adults, the gobblers had more weight problems and were more likely to have had drug problems too.

Mischel’s study points to the need to teach our children self-control, to give them the tools to resist the temptations of consumer culture and the notion that all wants must be immediately satiated. According to Mischel, the daily rituals and activities that go on in the home can be a training ground where we teach our children how to think so they can outsmart desire. Simple things – not snacking before dinner, saving up allowance, not opening gifts until Christmas morning – are actually important exercises in cognitive training that equip children to resist.

When one in two adults are overweight, when obesity has become the number one health risk and when financial meltdowns are caused by the lure of easy credit and the desire for luxurious marshmallowy castles, it is past time to act. We must learn to resist. The marshmallow has been winning for too long.

—Andrew Tuplin

38 comments on the article “Eat This!”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 38

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eMoMaD

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluttony
I think I've seen the monkey experiment in Robert Winston's "The human instincts" series.
Don't you think that advertising educates gluttony in children?

eMoMaD

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluttony
I think I've seen the monkey experiment in Robert Winston's "The human instincts" series.
Don't you think that advertising educates gluttony in children?

Rita Oden-Gonzales

Most commonly referenced:

Proverbs 23:20-21

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

As a parent I agree with the conclusion of this article. I have witnessed so many children with possessions in such large amounts that they could not possibly appreciate any of them. I have witnessed children DEMAND items and promptly receive. I have experienced babysitting children and having them try the demand tactic on me, of course the reply after a gentle no is "my mommy/daddy will get if for me then."

Our lives are so busy that we often use gifts to appease our own guilt of not raising our kids but also to appease their hurt of missing their parents. Reward systems for items and food are a very poor tool for parenting and that beast will return to bite the parental ass.

There is a large difference between not teaching restraint and using a rewarding system for parenting/teaching. If I buy for and feed my child in appropriate and healthy levels they will most likely learn restraint on their own. They will also learn sharing, trading and bartering. A child with unlimited resources believes there are unlimited resources. It is that simple.

Rita Oden-Gonzales

Most commonly referenced:

Proverbs 23:20-21

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

As a parent I agree with the conclusion of this article. I have witnessed so many children with possessions in such large amounts that they could not possibly appreciate any of them. I have witnessed children DEMAND items and promptly receive. I have experienced babysitting children and having them try the demand tactic on me, of course the reply after a gentle no is "my mommy/daddy will get if for me then."

Our lives are so busy that we often use gifts to appease our own guilt of not raising our kids but also to appease their hurt of missing their parents. Reward systems for items and food are a very poor tool for parenting and that beast will return to bite the parental ass.

There is a large difference between not teaching restraint and using a rewarding system for parenting/teaching. If I buy for and feed my child in appropriate and healthy levels they will most likely learn restraint on their own. They will also learn sharing, trading and bartering. A child with unlimited resources believes there are unlimited resources. It is that simple.

Anonymous

Wait... What? If I wait fifteen minutes to eat twice the
ammount of food I'll have less of a chance
to have obesity?
Propaganda sure can be subtle.

Anonymous

Wait... What? If I wait fifteen minutes to eat twice the
ammount of food I'll have less of a chance
to have obesity?
Propaganda sure can be subtle.

Anonymous

Stupidity can also be subtle.
You've misrepresented the argument. Sure, maybe if the same children engaged in the experiment multiple times a day every single day, there would be a possibility of some of them becoming obese, but you're missing the point here. The main point is that the children who waited 15 minutes for the other marshmellow were able to exercise a greater degree of self-control, a characteristic that, later in life, makes them less likely to become obese. The author isn't suggesting that it's healthier to wait fifteen minutes and eat twice as much, but rather that the ability to wait the full 15 minutes and resist the urge of superficial hunger demonstrates a characteristic that is likely to lead to healthful consequences down the road.
...I'm guessing you'd be a gobbler.

Anonymous

Stupidity can also be subtle.
You've misrepresented the argument. Sure, maybe if the same children engaged in the experiment multiple times a day every single day, there would be a possibility of some of them becoming obese, but you're missing the point here. The main point is that the children who waited 15 minutes for the other marshmellow were able to exercise a greater degree of self-control, a characteristic that, later in life, makes them less likely to become obese. The author isn't suggesting that it's healthier to wait fifteen minutes and eat twice as much, but rather that the ability to wait the full 15 minutes and resist the urge of superficial hunger demonstrates a characteristic that is likely to lead to healthful consequences down the road.
...I'm guessing you'd be a gobbler.

kat [a] lyst

The point, which I believe you missed, is to illustrate that you get twice the reward for waiting. By showing you have control now, you will reap better in the end. That doesn't mean more. It means higher quality, quality vs. quantity.

kat [a] lyst

The point, which I believe you missed, is to illustrate that you get twice the reward for waiting. By showing you have control now, you will reap better in the end. That doesn't mean more. It means higher quality, quality vs. quantity.

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