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Archive for May, 2010

Marshmallow Experiment: Deferred Gratification?

Sunday, May 16th, 2010 -- By ET

XX and WW are old enough for me to conduct scientific research on them now.

Today I did the famous marshmallow experiment: I gave them each a piece of gummy bear vitamin in the morning, and I told them if they can defer eating the gummy bear till noon, I’ll give one more piece.

According to the theory, kids with good impulse control would defer the consumption.  They generally show good academic performance in a later stage of their lives.  So I’m eager to see how my kids perform in this test.

To my delight, both kids chose to wait.  To examine whether their actions are consistent with their choices, I put the gummy bears on the table and said, I’ll leave them here, and you can take them any time you want, at noon, if I still see them, I’ll put one more for each of you.

Then XX immediately said: “Dad, I change my mind, I’m going to eat it now.” Hmm, that’s not what I expected, XX is quite smart and not bad in self control, if one of them would choose immediate consumption, she should not be the one.  She then said:”If I leave it here, mommy can eat it secretly. WW can also steal it.” Well, from my experience, these are indeed not impossible scenarios.  When I think about XX’s decision making process, I guess she outdid those kids with self-control, she could take potential risks into her consideration and make corresponding decisions.  Given the existence of the risks, it is indeed her best strategy to eat the gummy bear immediately. Getting one bird in the hand is indeed better than having two in the bush!

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