• Behcet Bicakci

Marshmallow Challenge - Impulse and Restrain

Marshmallow challenge is also known Marshmallow Experiment was carried on a group of children aged around four. Children were told that; if they could wait for 20 minutes in the room. They could have two marshmallows. However, if they didn't want to wait, they could have only one marshmallow and leave the room now.

The Marshmallow Experiment by psychologist Walter Mischel.

Just imagine you are four years old child, and someone makes the above proposal. What would you do? Accept one marshmallow now and walk away, or wait for 20 minutes in the room and get two marshmallows.

The test's purpose was to measure children's ability to restrain emotion and delay impulse and identify kids' characters and what path they would take in life. It is also a challenge between impulse and restraint, ID and ego, desire and self-control.

Some kids closed their eyes, talked to each other etc. and stayed until the end, so they got two marshmallows. However, some kids didn't want to wait; therefore, they got one marshmallow at the beginning of the experiment and left the room.

After 12-14 years later, the same children were tracked down as adolescent, and the power of how impulse was handled become clear.


Those who resisted the temptation at the age of four were personally effective, socially competent, better able to cope with stress and frustration, embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up. In difficult times, they were self-reliant, confident, trustworthy, and ready to take the necessary initiatives. They were also able to delay gratification to pursue their goals and be successful academically and eager to learn. Moreover, their families also reported that their kids were socially active, better able to put their ideas in words, respected family values and a good relationship with them.

Kids who grabbed marshmallow at the beginning of the experiment and left the room had fewer of these qualities. In their adolescent, they were shying away from social activities, being stubborn, easily upset by frustrations, lack of respect for themselves as well as others, feeling of unworthy, unable to cope with stress under pressure, mistrustful and resentful about not 'getting enough', overreacting with sharp temper, provoking arguments, and jealousy. After a decade they were still not able to put off the instant gratification.

The study shows the benefit of delaying gratification in childhood and throughout life. As an individual, you might have been impatient, stubborn, unnecessarily jealous, unable to delay gratification, and have been suffering or unable to reach your goals in life because of your bad habits of desire of instant gratification.

The good news is that we can still work on our bad habits by educating, re-educating and training ourselves. We can find out why we are impatient and prefer instant pleasure but suffer later, instead of being patient at the beginning and reward ourselves with success and meaningful life.


Reasons for Instant Gratification (instant pleasure)?


You will need to learn how to delay gratification for decisions that might affect your wellbeing, finance, relationship and life in general. A few examples are below:

  • E.g. 1- High Chemistry in Romantic Relationships. Many relationships fail and end with regret because of unbalanced gratification. Especially when you meet someone you have high chemistry for and decide to sleep with or have a relationship without considering the future and giving a good thought about.

  • E.g. 2- Instant desire for having something. When purchasing something without considering the consequences such as a car, an expensive dress, booking a holiday etc. You might regret it because you decided with instant gratification and didn't give enough thought or good research or ask someone to get a second opinion.

  • E.g 3- Choices without considering personal interests and skills. Many people state that they wish they studied or had a career other than they have. One of the main reasons we make the wrong choice for our education and career is our instant pleasure. Usually, we make the wrong decisions because of high and unrealistic expectations, especially without considering our skills and interests. We choose our education or career for monetary or family reasons rather than our interests and skills. Of course, this is not the only reason for wrong choices. There can be some other reasons such as the influence of family, friends etc.

How to Delay Gratification (instant pleasure)?

  • Always question when in doubt: When you feel an intensity of instant pleasure, try to stop yourself and question why you feel that way. For example, you saw an advert online, and you like the dress very much, and you want to buy it without thinking if you need it or not?

  • Try to remember your regretful experience in the past and connect the present desire with it and give yourself sometimes. For example, if your previous relationship failed because of high chemistry and your instant desire, try to learn from it. Examining past events can be helpful as long as you don't go too deep and upset yourself.

  • Try to develop good habits and replace them with a bad one. For example, a friend of mine subscribed with tens of websites for clothes and beauty products. Each time these website had sales or new products, they would email her, and she would buy many items that she would never have enough time to wear or use. At the end of the month, there was no money in her account even though she worked full time. After a conversation with her, she unsubscribed from websites; now she bought a car and enough savings in her bank account.

As I always say, the starting point is you. When you want to change and make changes in your life, you can easily do it. All you need to do is give yourself sometime and think about what you want to do in your life. Once you are clear about the next step and direction, then it is easy to move on. If you have tried and think you cannot do it yourself, there is always support and help from professionals available.


Note: A special thanks to Mrs. Linda Turner for editing and proof reading.

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