The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a study on deferred gratification conducted in 1972 by Walter Mischel of Standford University. The purpose of the study was to understand when the control of deferred gratification, the ability to wait to obtain something that one desires, develops in children.
The children were led to sit by a table in a room, empty of distractions, where a treat of their choice (marshmallow, Oreo cookie or pretzel stick) was placed in front of them. The children were then told that they can eat the marshmallow (or the Oreo cookie or pretzel stick), but if they waited for 15 minutes, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.
In over 600 kids who took part in the experiment, only a minority ate the marshmallow immediately. Of those who attempted to wait, one-third deferred gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow.
Follow-up studies, in 1988 and 1990, showed that "preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent" and that the ability to delay gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores.
There are few filmed reproductions of the marshmallow experiment up on YouTube. Let's watch one and see how kids try to resist marshmallow temptation. It's fun, I promise!