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Angel Scott
Angel Scott

The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control - A Book Review and PDF Download

The Marshmallow Test: What It Is and Why It Matters

Have you ever heard of the marshmallow test? It's one of the most famous psychological experiments ever conducted, and it has some fascinating insights into human behavior and motivation. In this article, you'll learn what the marshmallow test is, how it was done, what it revealed, and how you can use it to improve your own self-control and goal achievement. You'll also discover some of the limitations and criticisms of the marshmallow test, and how to balance delayed and instant gratification in your life.

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The Original Experiment by Walter Mischel and His Colleagues

The marshmallow test was created by Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He and his colleagues wanted to test young children's ability to delay gratification, or to resist an immediate reward in favor of a larger reward later.

The experiment was simple. A child was brought into a room and presented with a reward, usually a marshmallow or some other desirable treat. The child was told that the researcher had to leave the room for a while, but if they could wait until the researcher returned, they would get two marshmallows instead of just one. If they couldn't wait, they could ring a bell and get the one marshmallow right away, but they wouldn't get the second one.

The researcher then left the room for 15 minutes or until the child rang the bell. The child was alone with the marshmallow (or sometimes with two different treats, one more preferred than the other) and a hidden camera recorded their behavior. Some children ate the marshmallow as soon as the researcher left, some waited for a few minutes before giving in, and some managed to wait for the whole 15 minutes until the researcher came back.

The Findings and Implications of the Marshmallow Test

Delayed Gratification and Future Success

What Mischel and his colleagues found was surprising. They followed up with some of their original participants years later, when they were in high school or college. They discovered that there was a strong correlation between how long the children waited for the second marshmallow as preschoolers and how well they performed academically, socially, emotionally, and even physically as adolescents and adults.

Children who waited longer for the second marshmallow tended to have higher SAT scores, better grades, more self-esteem, more self-control, less substance abuse, less obesity, and better coping skills than children who waited less or not at all. These findings suggested that the ability to delay gratification in childhood was a predictor of future success and well-being.

Environmental Factors and Delayed Gratification

But how did the children learn to delay gratification? Was it a trait that they were born with, or was it influenced by their environment? Mischel and his colleagues also found that the experimental conditions had a significant effect on how long the children waited for the second marshmallow. For example, children waited longer when the marshmallow was hidden from view, when they were given strategies to distract themselves, or when they were told to think of the marshmallow as something else, like a cloud or a picture.

These findings suggested that delayed gratification was not a fixed trait, but a skill that could be learned and improved with practice and support. They also implied that the children's expectations and beliefs about the reliability of the environment and the reward played a role in their decision to wait or not. If the children trusted that the researcher would come back and deliver the second marshmallow, they were more likely to wait. If they doubted that the promise would be kept, they were more likely to take the one marshmallow and run.

The Replication and Extension of the Marshmallow Test by Other Researchers

The Role of Trust and Reliability in Delayed Gratification

The Replication Study by Kidd, Palmeri, and Aslin

In 2012, a team of researchers from the University of Rochester replicated and extended the marshmallow test with a new sample of preschoolers. They wanted to test whether the children's trust in the researcher's reliability affected their ability to delay gratification. They divided the children into two groups: a reliable group and an unreliable group.

In the reliable group, the researcher gave the child some crayons and promised to bring more if they waited. The researcher then left and came back with more crayons as promised. The same procedure was repeated with stickers. Then, the researcher gave the child one marshmallow and told them that they could have two if they waited until the researcher returned. The researcher then left for 15 minutes or until the child ate the marshmallow.

In the unreliable group, everything was the same except that the researcher did not keep their promise of bringing more crayons or stickers. Instead, they came back and said that they were sorry but there were no more crayons or stickers available. Then, they gave the child one marshmallow and told them that they could have two if they waited until the researcher returned. The researcher then left for 15 minutes or until the child ate the marshmallow.

What Kidd, Palmeri, and Aslin found was that the children in the reliable group waited much longer for the second marshmallow than the children in the unreliable group. The average waiting time for the reliable group was 12 minutes, while for the unreliable group it was only 3 minutes. This finding confirmed that trust and reliability were important factors in delayed gratification, and that children were not irrational or impulsive when they chose to eat the marshmallow right away. They were simply responding to their experience of an unreliable environment.

The Extension Study by Watts, Duncan, and Quan

In 2018, another team of researchers from New York University conducted a large-scale study with a more diverse and representative sample of preschoolers from different socio-economic backgrounds. They wanted to test whether delayed gratification in childhood was still correlated with future success and well-being in adulthood, after controlling for other factors such as family income, education, home environment, personality traits, and cognitive abilities.

They used data from a national study that followed over 900 children from birth to age 15. They measured delayed gratification using a similar procedure as Mischel's original experiment, but with different rewards such as cookies or pretzels. They also collected data on various outcomes such as academic achievement, health behaviors, social skills, mental health, and criminal activity.

What Watts, Duncan, and Quan found was that delayed gratification in childhood was only weakly correlated with future outcomes, and these correlations disappeared after controlling for other factors. This finding challenged Mischel's original claim that delayed gratification was a strong predictor of future success and well-being. However, they also found that delayed gratification varied significantly by socio-economic status (SES), with children from higher-SES families waiting longer than children from lower-SES families. Moreover, they found that delayed gratification had different effects on future outcomes depending on SES: for children from higher-SES families, waiting longer was associated with better outcomes; for children from lower-SES families, waiting longer was associated with worse outcomes.

The Changes in Delayed Gratification Over Time

The Meta-Analysis by Protzko

Another interesting question is whether delayed gratification has changed over time. Are children today more or less able to wait for the second marshmallow than children in the past? To answer this question, a researcher named John Protzko conducted a meta-analysis of 50 years of marshmallow test data from 1960 to 2017. He analyzed the results of 28 studies that used the same procedure as Mischel's original experiment, involving over 900 children.

What Protzko found was that delayed gratification has actually increased over time. Children in more recent studies waited an average of two minutes longer than children in earlier studies. This finding contradicted the popular belief that children today are more impatient and impulsive than ever before.

The Possible Explanations for the Increase in Delayed Gratification

Why have children become better at delaying gratification over time? Protzko suggested several possible explanations, such as:

  • Improvements in abstract thinking skills, which allow children to imagine and anticipate future rewards.

  • Increases in intelligence scores, which are related to executive functions such as planning, working memory, and inhibition.

  • Changes in parenting styles, which may foster more autonomy and self-regulation in children.

  • Differences in cultural values, which may emphasize more long-term goals and rewards.

However, Protzko also acknowledged that these explanations are speculative and need more empirical evidence to support them. He also noted that his meta-analysis only included studies that used the same method as Mischel's original experiment, which may not capture the full range of factors that influence delayed gratification in different contexts and situations.

The Practical Applications and Limitations of the Marshmallow Test

How to Use the Marshmallow Test to Improve Self-Control and Goal Achievement

Strategies to Increase Delayed Gratification

The marshmallow test is not only a fascinating experiment, but also a useful tool to improve self-control and goal achievement. By learning how to delay gratification, we can resist temptations and distractions that may interfere with our long-term aspirations and well-being. Here are some strategies that might help you increase your delayed gratification skills:

  • Monitor your distractions. Phone, TV, and the internet may be a good place to start. You can install apps to monitor your usage and see how you're really spending your time. You can also set limits or block certain websites or apps during certain hours of the day.

  • Make a plan. Having a clear and specific goal can help you stay focused and motivated. Break down your goal into smaller and manageable steps, and set deadlines for each step. Write down your plan and review it regularly.

  • Reward yourself. Giving yourself a small reward after completing a task can reinforce your behavior and make you feel good. However, make sure that your reward is not counterproductive to your goal. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, don't reward yourself with a slice of cake. Instead, choose something healthy or non-food related.

  • Seek support. Having someone who can encourage you, hold you accountable, or join you in your goal can make it easier and more enjoyable to delay gratification. You can also join online communities or groups that share your interests or challenges.

  • Use cognitive strategies. Changing how you think about the reward or the situation can help you resist temptation. For example, you can distract yourself by thinking about something else, or you can reframe the reward as something less appealing or more abstract.

Resources to Learn More About the Marshmallow Test

If you want to learn more about the marshmallow test and its implications for self-control and success, here are some resources that you might find helpful:

  • The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel. This is a book written by the creator of the marshmallow test himself, where he explains his research findings and offers practical advice on how to apply them to various aspects of life.

  • The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success by Joachim de Posada. This is a TED talk by a motivational speaker who demonstrates the marshmallow test with children from different countries and cultures, and discusses its relevance for personal and professional success.

  • The Marshmallow Test for Adults by Kelly McGonigal. This is an article by a psychologist and author who explains how the marshmallow test can help adults overcome procrastination, addiction, and other self-control challenges.

How to Avoid the Pitfalls and Misconceptions of the Marshmallow Test

The Limitations and Criticisms of the Marshmallow Test

While the marshmallow test is a valuable and influential experiment, it is not without its limitations and criticisms. Some of the main points that have been raised by researchers and critics are:

  • The marshmallow test is not a valid measure of self-control. It only measures one aspect of self-control, which is the ability to resist a specific reward in a specific situation. It does not capture the complexity and variability of self-control in real life, where people face different types of rewards, temptations, costs, and benefits.

  • The marshmallow test is not a reliable predictor of future success. It only shows a weak and inconsistent correlation between delayed gratification in childhood and later outcomes in adulthood, which can be explained by other factors such as socio-economic status, intelligence, personality, and environment. It does not show a causal relationship between delayed gratification and success, nor does it account for the possibility of reverse causation (i.e., that success leads to delayed gratification, rather than the other way around).

  • The marshmallow test is not a fair or ethical experiment. It puts children in a stressful and unnatural situation, where they have to choose between two rewards that are both desirable and scarce. It also creates a power imbalance between the researcher and the child, where the researcher controls the availability and delivery of the rewards. It may also cause harm or distress to the children who fail to wait for the second reward, or who feel pressured or coerced to wait.

The Balance Between Delayed and Instant Gratification

Another important point to consider is that delayed gratification is not always better than instant gratification. Sometimes, it may be more beneficial or rational to choose an immediate reward over a delayed one, depending on the context and circumstances. For example, if the immediate reward is more valuable or satisfying than the delayed one, if the delayed one is uncertain or risky, or if the waiting time is too long or unknown.

Therefore, rather than seeing delayed gratification as an absolute virtue and instant gratification as an absolute vice, it may be more helpful to see them as two ends of a spectrum, where both have their pros and cons. The key is to find a balance between them that suits your goals, preferences, and situations. To do this, you need to weigh the costs and benefits of each option, consider your opportunity costs (i.e., what you are giving up by choosing one option over another), and evaluate your trade-offs (i.e., how much you are willing to sacrifice or compromise for one option over another).

In conclusion, the marshmallow test is an interesting and useful experiment that can teach us a lot about human behavior and motivation. However, it is not a definitive or comprehensive measure of self-control or success. It is also not a one-size-fits-all solution for achieving our goals and well-being. Rather, it is a tool that can help us understand ourselves better, improve our self-regulation skills, and make better decisions that align with our values and aspirations.


The marshmallow test is one of the most famous psychological experiments ever conducted. It involves giving children a choice between an immediate reward or a larger reward later on. The test was designed to measure their ability to delay gratification, or to resist an immediate reward in favor of a larger reward later on.

The test has revealed some fascinating insights into human behavior and motivation. It has shown that delayed gratification is influenced by various factors such as trust, reliability, expectations, beliefs, strategies, abstract thinking skills, intelligence scores, parenting styles, cultural values, etc. It has also shown that delayed gratification has changed over time, with children today being able to wait longer than children in the past.

One of the resources that I mentioned above is a book by Walter Mischel himself, titled The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control. This book is a comprehensive and engaging account of Mischel's research and its implications for personal and social development. It also offers practical advice on how to apply the lessons of the marshmallow test to various aspects of life, such as weight control, quitting smoking, overcoming heartbreak, making major decisions, and planning for retirement.

If you are interested in reading this book, you might be wondering where you can find it and how you can download it as a pdf file. Fortunately, there are several ways to do this online. Here are some of the options that you can try:

  • Visit the official website of the book at Here you can find more information about the book, read reviews and excerpts, watch videos and interviews with the author, and order a hardcover or paperback copy from various online retailers.

  • Search for the book on Google Books at Here you can preview some pages of the book, read user ratings and comments, and buy an ebook version from Google Play Books.

  • Look for the book on Amazon at Here you can read customer reviews and ratings, browse related books and products, and purchase a hardcover, paperback, or Kindle edition of the book.

  • Check out the book on Goodreads at Here you can join a community of readers who share their opinions and recommendations on books, see what other people are reading and saying about the book, and add it to your reading list or wishlist.

  • Download a free pdf version of the book from OceanofPDF at Here you can find a brief summary and cover image of the book, as well as a link to download it as a pdf or epub file. However, be aware that this website may not have the legal rights to distribute this book online, and that downloading it may violate the author's copyright.

These are some of the ways that you can find and download The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel as a pdf file. However, before you do so, please consider supporting the author by buying a legitimate copy of the book from a reputable source. This way, you can enjoy reading this insightful and inspiring book while also respecting the author's intellectual property and hard work.


Here are some frequently asked questions about the marshmallow test and delayed gratification:

  • What is the marshmallow test?

The marshmallow test is an experimental design that measures

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