Saturday, May 23, 2009


I read about the 4 year old "marshmallow experiment" on the Tranquil Parent blog yesterday, and decided to try it out with Wyatt. The idea is, you sit the child down, give them a marshmallow and tell them that they're allowed to eat it anytime, BUT, if they can wait until you get back, they'll get another one as well. It's a test of patience and choices, and gives you some insight into their ability to reason. Immediate gratification, or being rewarded for patience? Apparently, it also ties into their IQ... the sooner they cave in, the lower they test, generally speaking, but I never put much stake in those kinds of subjective links. It's interesting, but I don't think any test can paint a complete picture of a child.

So, I set up the video camera, and had Wyatt sit at his desk. I brought in a plate with the marshmallow, and told him that he had a choice to make. He was allowed to eat the marshmallow whenever he chose, but if he waited till I came back, he could have more. If he ate the one on the plate, that would be all he gets. I left the room for a few minutes, and came back to up the ante. I poured some chocolate syrup on the marshmallow, and said I'd be back a little later, and the rules were the same. If he could STILL hold off on eating it, he'd get another, also with syrup. I left for a few minutes more, and came back to find a very patiently anxious boy with an untouched treat!

While I was very pleased (although somewhat surprised) at how much self-control he had, unfortunately, the part of the experiment I was most looking forward to was fruitless. After watching this video, I was really excited and curious to see what he would do in my absence, and how he would cope with the pressure while waiting. Would he find distractions? Would he talk himself through it? What was his process? Well, all I know is that for the first couple minutes, he was silent, wiggly, fidgety, expressive (as usual), and not nearly as frustrated as I thought he'd be... but then my camera ran out of tape...

While I'll never know what he did while I was gone, (especially once it was covered in chocolate, lol), and I doubt trying it again would produce the same result, now that he knows how it all plays out, I am proud of him for doing as well as he did.

And, in a couple years, I can do it again with Dawson!


Korinne said...

oh that is SO great! I have a feeling I know what Mercy will do if I offer her a temptation like that, but I'm going to try it and see!!

grouchy mama said...

I'm so tempted to try it. I'll have to be sure the video camera has tape in it. I've had that happen to me before, too. I'm curious how long The Girl will be able to hold out!

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