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Delayed Gratification

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Why should people be able to postpone their desire? Desire is a sense of hoping for something. Scientists have discovered that if people could control their inner desire, they would be more likely to have self-discipline, higher SAT scores and are more successful. Delayed gratification is a person’s ability to control his/her desire for something for a period of time. The Marshmallow Experiment conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University in 1972. This experiment tests the self-control that develops in children age four to six. The experimenter does not tell the children when they will come back to reward each of them another marshmallow if they resist the temptation of being alone with a marshmallow. As a result, some children could not reject the temptation and ate the marshmallow on the table. However, some would find their own ways to try to complete the goals, which is to tolerate the “suffering” and wait for another marshmallow. For instance, some of them would “cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray, others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal.”

The result is that one third of the children ate the marshmallow right away after Dr. Mischel left. One third of the children waited for a while, but they ate the marshmallow eventually. The rest of the children, which is also one third of all, waited till the last minutes and got another marshmallow. Therefore, the experiment is testing if those children (participants) can delay their gratification by doing a similar experiment. Ben Zur and Breznitz studied the effect of time pressure on decision-making in 1981. The participants were asked to make decisions between gambles under three different levels of time pressure. The result is that participants make less risky choices under high time pressure. The experiment indicates that people choose different levels of risky choice depends on levels of time pressure. It suggests that people tend not to be too risky under time pressure. Additionally, the experiment illustrates that people think negative ideas when they are under high time pressure.

Therefore, the experiment demonstrates that time plays a crucial role in human’s thoughts and behaviors. To investigate the relationship between delayed gratification and time, the observers decide to do this experiment. After studying two experiments that were listed above, the observers are inspired to find out the relationship between time and the delayed gratification. Since time actually affect people’s mind and behavior, in this experiment, the observers are going to see how time can affect one’s delayed gratification. The observers suggest that if the participants are allowed knowing how much time left they need to hold on their desire, they will be more likely to wait; the participants who do not know the exact time that they have to wait will be more likely to give up on waiting.


DrReynolds. “On Becoming Babywise: The Stanford Marshmallow Study.” The Stanford Marshmallow Study. 8 Sept. 2008. Web. 04 June 2012. <http://www.smartparentshealthykids.com/blog/?p=412>. Lehrer, Jonah. “The Secret of Self Control.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 18 May 2009. Web. 3 June 2012. <http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer>. Svenson, Ola, and John A. Maule. Time Pressure and Stress in Human Judgment and Decision Making. Google. 30 Nov. 1993. Web. 04 June 2012. <http://books.google.com.tw/books?hl=zh-TW>.

Research Question
Will one’s delayed gratification affected by time?

The observers suggest that if the participants are allowed knowing how much time left they need to hold on their desire, they will be more likely to wait; the participants who do not know the exact time that they have to wait will be more likely to give up on waiting.

Test participant’s ability to postpone his/her desire and to observe if his/her desire will be affected by time.

Variables and Group
Independent Variable: looking at first marshmallow and wait for ten minutes Dependent Variable: the ability to postpone their desire to eat the first marshmallow in order to get the second marshmallow Constant Variable: the marshmallow, the time, the surrounding, the temperature Experimental Group: know how much time they have to wait to get the second marshmallow Control Group: did not know how much time they need to wait to get the second marshmallow Participants

10 male and 6 female

Testing Circumstances
Participants will be tested in group of two. Experimental group will be able to know how much time left to wait. Control group will not be allowed to know how much how much time left to wait.

What Will Be Measured
The effect of knowing how much time left has on experimental group’s ability of delayed gratification.

It will take about 10 minutes to test on each participant.

* A pack of marshmallow
* 40 plates
* 40 children
* Camera
* Timer

1) Led each child to a certain classroom.
2) Put a marshmallow on a plate in front of the child.
3) Tell him or her (the first group), “Here’s a deal. Here’s a marshmallow. You can either wait, and I’ll bring you another one when I come back, so you will have two, or you can eat it now, but you can’t have another one. Okay, so I’ll be back.” 4) (The second group)Tell him or her, “Here’s a deal. Here’s a marshmallow. You can either wait till the timer stops, and I will be back to give you another one, or you can eat it before the timer stops, but you will not be able to get a second marshmallow.

In the experiment group, children were asked to postpone their desire to eat marshmallow for ten minutes, but they were notified how much time left to hold their desire. According to the data, nine out of eight children can hold their want. In the recording video, most of the children still try to eat the marshmallow. However, every time when they were informed how much time left to wait, they tended to put the marshmallow down and decide to wait longer. One participant ate the marshmallow. However, he ate it before the experimenter went in and told him how many time left. In the control group, children are asked to postpone their desire to eat marshmallow for ten minutes without knowing when to stop. According to the data, three out of eight participants eat the marshmallow. In the recording video, most of the children smell the marshmallow first, and then lick it. Some took small bites. During these ten minutes, most of the children try to distract themselves by playing around or looking around.

Analyzing Results
The data is analyzed by pie graph to show the percentage of participants in the experimental group and control group.

Discussion by Ching Yang
This study designed an experiment to test on people’s delayed gratification. The experiment gave children a marshmallow and asked them to wait for amount of time. If they can postpone their desire to eat the marshmallow, they will be awarded another marshmallow. However, if the kids eat the marshmallow before the time, they won’t be punished. In this experiment, all participants are aged from four to seven. Researcher separated them into two group, experimental group and control group. In the experimental group, all the children wait for ten minutes. However, the researcher would come into the room and told the kids how much time was remaining when they have five minutes left and reminded them when they got one minute left.

In the control group, all the children were under a circumstance of not knowing how much time they have to wait. Children in the control group also wait for ten minutes. However, they didn’t know when the experiment would stop. The hypothesis of this research is that participants who know how much time they have to wait will be able to control and delay their desire. Most of the children in the experiment tend to smell, lick and take small bite of the marshmallow. Some even dance or sing. The result shows that 1 out of eight participants in the experimental group ate the marshmallow and 3 out of eight participants in the control group ate the marshmallow. The result supports the hypothesis.

This study benefits people by letting people know that in different situation, people tend to have different ability to delay their desire. People tend to extend their time for waiting when they have sense how much time they have to wait.

There are several limitations on this research. First, the number of participants should be augmented. In a kindergarten, the amount of kids ranging from four year old to seven year old is limited. Besides, to coordinate with children’s schedules, numbers of kids that can be participated are also limited. There are only sixteen children participated in this experiment. The accuracy will be higher if the numbers of participants increased. Second, the condition should also be improved. Due to the limitation, the experiments (experimental group and control group) were held in two different rooms. The condition of the experiment should be absolutely same.

For the further research, scientists and researcher can research on how group can affect this experiment. Researcher can put two children or more in one room and observe how relationship can interfere people’s delay gratification. If one child ate the marshmallow, will the other child be affected?

Discussion by Angela Chang
This study tests the relationship between time and delayed gratification on three to six years old children. At first, each child was given a marshmallow. The observer told the children (participants) that they can either wait and get another marshmallow by the time the observer came back, or they can eat it whatever they want but get only one marshmallow. Then, the observer left the room and started to record participants’ reactions.

The first group, control group, did not know when the observer would come back. The second group, experimental group, knew how many minutes would the observer come back. The hypothesis of this experiment is that the participants are allowed knowing how many minutes left they need to hold on their desire, they will be more likely to wait; the participants who do not know the exact time that they have to wait will be more likely to give up and eat the marshmallow. According to the data, in the experimental group, the results show that eight ninth children tended to wait longer when they are informed how many minutes left. On the other hand, the control group, the result suggests that only five out of eight children can wait until the observer came back and get another marshmallow. The results match the hypothesis. In this experiment, it is apparent to see that delayed gratification can be longer if the participants know how much time left.

This study benefits people that people can do more research on the relationship between different factors and delayed gratification. People should have more information, knowledge, and experiments on delayed gratification in the future.

There are several limitations of this experiment. First, the participants were not all in the same room, which means they are not in the same condition, and it might affect the result. The participants should all be in the same condition. Second, participants should be more than twenty people. The experiment will be more accurate with more participants. However, in our experiment, the teacher in the kindergarten could not provide so many kids for this experiment. Third, the age of participants in this experiment was four to six year old. However, the experiment will be better if the participants can all in the same age.

For the further research, the experiment should test on more children in the same age. Besides, the experiment can also test on the relationship between children’s delayed gratification and other factors, such as conditions and genders. And also, the participants should all in the same testing room to lower the factors as much as possible.

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