C’mon, you’d eat the marshmallow too

Little girl with pigtails looking longingly at marshmallow on a plateThanks for all the support after that last post (recall Ms. Persistently Pushy). Thanks to those of you whom I offended with my opinionated opinions for not telling me. I spend half my time writing about topics that are inflammatory and the other half worrying that I’ve offended people. Then I remember that anyone who taked offence can always stop reading.

On a completely different note, my dear friend, M., was reminding me yesterday of the marshmallow experiment we all learned about in Introductory Psychology. Many years ago, 32 preschoolers were given the choice of eating one marshmallow immediately, or receiving two marshmallows if they could hold off for 15 minutes. The researchers left the children in the room with their one marshmallow. Of course, some of these kids–I would have been one of them–could not hold out, and downed their marshmallow as soon as the researcher left the room. Others were able to wait for the larger reward.

Then the kids were followed into adulthood on a range of outcomes. Turns out the ones who could not delay gratification had lower university entrance exam scores among other things. There were even differences in brain activity, including more activity in the brain region associated with addiction for the kids like me.

Delay of gratification is a wonderful thing, I guess. I can manage it in some areas, just not around food. I’ve paid off my mortgage (J. helped with that), I have money in the bank, and I even managed to complete my schooling somehow. If those things don’t suggest ability to delay gratification, what does? If I were in the experiment and was offered something inedible, say a loonie or an ‘A’ on an exam, I could have held out for the reward.

Really, if there’s any merit to this study, it’s amazing I’ve gotten as far as I have. M. and I agreed that not only would we have eaten our marshmallows within seconds of the examiner’s leaving the room, we would have stolen the other kids’ marshmallows too. Without a doubt, J. would have been able to hold off long enough to earn at least 5 marshmallows, and then she would have saved all five until they were stale. We are so different it’s amazing we ever hitched up. Hey, maybe I should have married M.! Oh yeah, she straight.

I was somewhat comforted this morning when I tried a similar experiment on Jelly. Okay, let’s admit the study evolved naturally while I was showering. I overheard Jelly rooting around in my shorts, which housed a wayward dog treat. I had dumped the shorts on the floor (something I would never do if J. were home by the way), and Jelly sniffed the treat out. She then proceeded to rip my pocket to shreds in a few short minutes.

Given what I’ve shared about the marshmallow study, you will not be surprised to learn that Jelly dropped out of high school, she can’t afford to rent a dog house, let alone buy a home, and she has an addictive relationship with kibble and other food stuffs. I guess M. and I aren’t alone in our challenges.

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2 thoughts on “C’mon, you’d eat the marshmallow too

  1. I remember being taught that marshmallow experiment too! And I also clearly recall thinking that there was no doubt in my mind I’d be grabbing marshmallows, wolfing them down and then positioning myself for whatever meagre consequence they could bestow upon me – nothing could outweigh a marshmallow at that time in my life…so I guess I’m right in there with you Annie! Heh heh… M

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