Jack Hayden’s Marshmallow Test

The following is an excerpt from Roy H. Williams Monday Morning Memo. It was the catalyst and inspiration for the Marshmallow Video.

Consider the following:

A large group of 4-year old children are led into a room, one at a time. The room is equipped with a two-way mirror. Each child is seated and given a marshmallow.  “You can eat the marshmallow right now if you want. But if you wait until I come back to eat your marshmallow, I’ll give you a second marshmallow to go with it.” The giver of marshmallows then leaves the child alone in the room.

Is there anything we could learn from such a test? Could it tell us anything important about a child’s future?

One third of the children ate the marshmallow immediately.
One third held out for a short time, then ate the marshmallow.
One third waited 15 to 20 minutes until the giver of marshmallows returned with the promised, second marshmallow.

Small indicators are valuable to a savvy consultant, just as they were valuable to Walter Mischel*, a scientist at Stanford 40 years ago.

Fourteen years later, at the age of eighteen, each of the original 216 children was located. Those who didn’t eat the marshmallow scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT (610 verbal and 652 math versus 524 verbal and 528 math.)

At age 40, the group that didn’t eat their marshmallows had more successful marriages, higher incomes, greater career satisfaction and better health than the marshmallow eaters.

The 4 year-old who eats the marshmallow is oriented toward the present.
The 4 year-old who waits is oriented toward the future.

Yes, we can learn big things from small indicators.

Read the Complete Memo

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tamara Tomko January 27, 2009 at 9:34 am

Manley, Indiana shared this with me this morning. Jack-Hayden is so cute! And also very patient. Hope you’re doing well!

admin February 1, 2009 at 7:56 am

Tamara, thanks for the compliment on JH’s cuteness. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit since he looks like my wife.

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