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September 4, 2005

Marshmallow Aptitude Test — In a 4–year–old it can predict the future quality of life


Forty years ago at Stanford University a researcher conducted a very simple and powerful study.

Each member of a group of 4–year–old children was given one marshmallow.

The child was then told that if she could resist eating it for 15 minutes she would receive a second marshmallow when that amount of time had passed.

The child was then left alone in the room with the marshmallow.

Some children were able to resist while others instantly ate theirs.

Ten years passed.

The now 14–year–old children were revisited to see how they were doing.

The children who had waited out the 15 minutes for the second marshmallow were doing better in school, had superior relationships with their peers and managed stress more successfully than those who ate right away.

Now, I can tell you this: though I don't really remember much from the time I was four I am almost 100% certain that I would've been among the patient ones.

Why do I say this?

Because of a habit I have that, to this day, I have yet to see duplicated in another human being.

When I receive a package or a letter from someone whom I look forward to hearing from I never ever open it the moment it arrives.

Instead, I put on my desk or a table where I can't help but see it every time I walk through the house.

I will leave it there, unopened, for days.

Why do I do this?

It seems so obvious to me: I get the exquisite pleasure of thinking about the person who sent me the item along with what it might possibly be or say and, bonus: I also get the prize at the end, all the sweeter for the waiting and anticipation.

No, color me a two–marshamallow man from the get–go.

The reason I mention the marshmallow experiment at all here is because I read in today's New York Times Business section a most laudatory review by Paul B. Brown of Joachim de Posada and Ellen Singer's new book, "Don't Eat the Marshmallow... Yet," just published.

$19.95 retail and $13.57 at amazon.


I think I'll get it.

Then, after it arrives, I'll let it age a few years before reading it.

Hey — works for Scotch whiskey so why not for books?

September 4, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Those of us who ate the marshmallow make life more interesting for those of you who didn't. At the very least, we probably keep the anesthesiologists in business.

Posted by: Richelle | Sep 8, 2005 11:13:06 PM

When I read I book, fiction or non-fiction, that I've fallen in love with, I stretch it out as long as humanly possible. The idea of being finished with it is terribly sad. But then, I always see the end in the beginning.

I have an electronic toy, a rather expensive one, that I ordered for myself two weeks ago and I haven't opened it yet. I'm dithering around with where I'm going to put it, and I want an absolutely uninterruptable 8-hour stretch to be alone with it.

I know what you're talking about. It is a sweet anticipation. Others think I'm crazy. "How can you DO that? Open that thing up! You might need to send it back!" Sigh.

Although. Life is short. There are no guarantees. Use 'em while you got 'em. And so on.

Or, to quote the words of a favorite tune of mine, "Good things come to those who wait, but not to those who wait too late..."

Posted by: Flutist | Sep 4, 2005 4:55:05 PM

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