Judging a kid’s ability to delay gratification by whether they eat a marshmallow or not is a ridiculous way of predicting their future achievement, say Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.
No behavioral game has gained more publicity in the last year than Dr. Walter Mischel’s “marshmallow test,” an assessment of children’s impulse control. Four-year-olds are put at a table in a blank room, with a marshmallow in front of them. They’re told that if they can wait until the experimenter comes back, they’ll get two marshmallows to eat. Writing about this in The New Yorker last spring, Jonah Lehrer reported that preschoolers who waited the full 15 minutes grew into teens with SAT scores that were, on average, 215 points higher than the tots who ate the marshmallow in the first 30 seconds.