The Marshmallow Test profiles the famous 1960s psychology experiment which links a child’s ability to resist temptation and defer gratification to future success and achievement, suggesting that self control lies at the heart of human potential.
The Marshmallow Test Summary
The Marshmallow Test is a treatise on self control.
Written by the pioneer of the famous Marshmallow experiment, the book looks at the relationship between deferred gratification and success and suggests that the most important insight from decades of study is that all of us can learn strategies and coping techniques to build up our own willpower and achieve great results.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- Strong correlations exist between the duration of deferring gratification in the marshmallow test and behavioural insights, mental health, reported self worth, addiction vulnerability and academic achievement.
- Self control is a matter of ignoring or deflecting our limbic system (hot thinking) and overcoming it with the power of our prefrontal cortex (cool thinking).
- Different techniques can be employed to achieve this including reframing, abstraction, substitution, repetition and distance strategies.
- One of the most powerful techniques employed is an IF-THEN framework where the subject completely reevaluates the nature of their temptation in light of the future,
- People with the ability to perceive their future self overlapping more closely with their current self tend to perform better in the test and save more for their retirement.
- Teaching self control to children and also to adults has implications for human potential that should be considered by policy makers.
- Willpower is a muscle that can be trained over time and depends hugely on our perception of fatigue, reward and self-worth.
- Genetics is one factor behind why some people appear more able to resist temptation and these traits are evidence from an early age.
- However, we are not destined to play the role defined by our genes as effective self-control training is able to determine which genes are activated and used more often: like books in a library.
- Many people exhibit extreme self control in some areas of life and not in others (e.g. Bill Clinton) and this is typical of our complex human nature.
- Working on cognitive reappraisal and self-distancing are two of the most effective ways we can build better self-control into our lives.