The purpose of the original marshmallow study was to understand when the control of deferred gratification, the ability to wait to obtain something that one wants, develops in children.
Deferred gratification, or delayed gratification is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later. In a few words, replace the small rewards with a bigger but including some disciplines and sacrifice.
The original experiment used children age three to seven as subjects but in different groups. The children were led into a room; empty of distractions, with a marshmallow was placed on a table, by a chair.
The children could eat the marshmallow, the researchers said, but if they waited for fifteen minutes without giving in to the temptation, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. The researches says that some children cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can't see the tray, others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or danced in their seats, sang, and took pretend naps. Several took a bite from the bottom of the marshmallow then placed it back in the desert cup so it looked untouched. A few then nibbled off the top, forgetting they could then longer hide the evidence since both ends were eaten while others would simply eat the marshmallow as soon as the researchers left.
In over lots of children who took part in the experiment, a minority ate the marshmallow immediately. Of those who attempted to delay, one-third deferred gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow. Age was a major determinant of deferred gratification.
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