The Marshmallow Test

Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success
by Walter Mischel | 336 pages

The Marshmallow Test. It was Walter Mischel and his team who (50 years ago!) first started testing whether kids could wait 20 minutes to get two marshmallows (or other attractive treats) or if they’d give in and eat the one marshmallow in front of them. Their ability to delay gratification (or not!) led to shocking correlations related to how they fared on all kinds of measures years + decades later—from SAT performance to body mass index. Here’s the guide on how to develop your self-control.


“What does the Marshmallow Test really show? Is the ability to delay gratification prewired? How can it be taught? What is its downside? This book speaks to these questions, and the answers are often surprising. In The Marshmallow Test, I discuss what ‘willpower’ is and what it is not, the conditions that undo it, and the consequences of having it and using it. I examine the implications of these findings for rethinking who we are; what we can be; how our minds work; how we can — and can’t — control our impulses, emotions and dispositions; how we can change, and how we can raise and educate our children. …

In writing The Marshmallow Test, I imagined myself having a leisurely conversation with you, the reader, much like the many I have had with friends and new acquaintances, sparked by the question ‘What’s the latest in marshmallow work?’ Soon we veer off into how the findings relate to aspects of our own lives, from child rearing, hiring new staff, and avoiding unwise business and personal decisions to overcoming heart-break, quitting smoking, controlling weight, reforming education, and understanding our own vulnerabilities and strengths. I have written the book for those of you who, like me, have struggled with self-control. I’ve also written it for those who simply would like to understand more deeply how our minds work. I hope The Marshmallow Test will start some new conversations for you.”

~ Walter Mischel from The Marshmallow Test

The Marshmallow Test.

It was Walter Mischel and his team who, 50 years ago at Stanford’s Bing Nursery School, first started testing whether kids could wait 20 minutes to get two marshmallows (or other attractive treats) or if they’d give in and eat the one marshmallow in front of them.

Their ability to delay gratification (or not!) led to shocking correlations related to how they fared on all kinds of measures years + decades later—from SAT performance to body mass index.

Carol Dweck (see Notes on Mindset) describes Walter Mischel as one of the greatest psychologists of our time and this book is a great look at 50+ years of research into how our minds work and, as the sub-title suggests, “Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success.” (Get a copy of the book here.)

It’s packed with fascinating research studies and Big Ideas. I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!

(P.S. Check out our growing collection of Positive Psychology classics!)

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About the author

Authors

Walter Mischel

Psychologist and author of The Marshmallow Test