Marshmellow Eaters

An excerpt from a New York magazine profile of David Brooks.

Brooks’s favorite social-science study is known as the Marshmellow Experiment. A child is left in a room with a marshmallow for fifteen minutes. If he restrains himself from eating the marshmallow, he gets a second one. If not, he doesn’t. The test turns out to be a predictor of all kinds of habits in adult life. Children who show self-control in front of a tasty marshmallow score higher on the SAT, struggle less in stressful situations, maintain friendships better, and have fewer problems with drugs. Brooks is concerned we’ve become a nation of marshmallow eaters. We want tax cuts and more entitlements, without realizing the contradiction. We want speedy, in-and-out wars. We want a president who can fix any crisis—even an oil spill he’s not equipped to solve.

What most intrigued me about the profile was Brooks saying he doesn’t think he can change people’s minds. That type of humility is refreshing for sure, but I think he is particularly well positioned to change people’s minds.

I agree with him on marshmellow eating. The question is whether there are enough self-disciplined adults to work together to help young people learn to work today, tomorrow, and the next several days for some future reward whether that be the gratification of completing a meaningful project, living debt-free, or earning downtime?

One thought on “Marshmellow Eaters

  1. Professor Byrnes:

    Highly interesting experiment.

    However, marshmallow is spelled with two a’s and no e’s.

    Just thought you’d like to know.

    Love you man.

    My best to all,

    Don

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