Power of Self Control: The Marshmallow Test

By Y K Gupta          Updated on May 09, 2020

power of self control: Marshmallow test depicted by chocolate chips cookiess

Yes, this one trait has the power of changing your destiny. And the name of this trait is power of self control which was established  by the legendary Marshmallow Test.

As you might be aware that this trait is also known in academic circles by the name of delayed gratification.

How strong this power of self control or delaying gratification is and how it affects your life, we will be discussing soon.

There have been many experiments related to how a person’s behavior and decisions affect his future life.

However, the Marshmallow Test on the role of self control, in the shaping of future of a person is among the most respected experiments.

And why not? As, for your knowledge, Marshmallow Test study is one among the longest study running for more than 5 decades.

Marshmallow Test is a series of tests which Walter Michel, a psychologist, then at Stanford University, has started conducting around 1960. The findings of this test first got published in the year 1972.

Power of self control depicted by marshmallows in barbecue
Power of self control: the marshmallow test

Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Follow up studies prove the power of self control 

However, study didn’t end here. As psychologists again conducted follow up studies in the years around 1980, 1990 and again latest in around year 2011.

The follow up studies were conducted on the same children, who now have been grown up, to find out how they were performing in their respective lives now.

And what the researchers have found was just astonishing.

We will be discussing the results of these follow up studies on the subject matter of delayed gratification or power of self control soon.

And I also invite you to dive a little deeper in the subject of power of exercising self control against instant temptations.

But before that, I would like you to understand the hypothesis of Marshmallow Test directly from, none other than, Walter Michel himself, the proponent of Marshmallow Test, in this video-


The power of self control results in bigger rewards in life for you

The marshmallow test study was conducted on children, aged between 4 to 6 years old both boys and girls. The test basically was to find out how many children can resist the temptation of eating two of the marshmallows or other two of cookies of their choice.

Children were taken in to a room, one child at a time. The room was free of all distractions except for the marshmallows and other cookies at the table.

Then the children were given the choice to eat the marshmallows or the cookie of their choice at the table or wait until the instructor comes back, after a waiting time of around 20 minutes.

They were told that if they wait for the instructor to come back before eating the marshmallows or the cookies of their choice, then they will be rewarded with the twice the number of marshmallows or cookies of their choice than the what was offered now.

Watch this very entertaining video of a Marshmallow Test-

Findings of Marshmallow Test prove power of self control in attracting success

After the test psychologists found that around 67 % of children could not resist the temptation of immediate gratification and ate the marshmallows within the allotted waiting time.

However, around 33% of the children were able to resist the temptation of immediate gratification.

These children chose to delay the gratification. They waited for the allotted time and as a reward got twice the number of marshmallows or the cookies of their choice in comparison of the children who could not resist the temptation of immediate gratification.

Studies shows that People who don’t fall prey of immediate gratification turn out more successful in their lives

Study didn’t end here. Around the year 1980 and 1990 psychologists came back to find out how the children who were able to delay gratification and on the other hand, who have fallen prey of immediate gratification were performing in their lives. 

And the results were astounding once again.

People who were able to delay the immediate gratification in the child hood were more successful compared to their counterparts who couldn’t resist the temptation of immediate gratification.

Result of studies demonstrate that children who could exercise self control

- Have scored better grades in their schools.

- They were in higher positions in the jobs.

- Were able to cope with the stress better.

- They scored higher in SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test) 

- Were maintaining a good physical fitness and BMI (Body Mass Index) 

- Were less prone to fall prey of addiction.

- Divorce rate was low among such people.

- And they were overall more successful in their lives.

The study is still continuing. And psychologists are still tracking the achievements of the children who could exercise self control against whom who have fallen prey of instant gratification.

And every time it turns out that the children who could restrain themselves against temptation were more successful and have achieved more in their lives compared to the children who could not exercise self control.This shows the power of self control in achieving success in your life.

How can you get benefited by this study

Power of self control depicted by marshmallows in a bowl
Power of self control: the marshmallow test

Photo by Rebecca Freeman on Unsplash

So this was the study and you have witnessed the power of self control or delayed gratification in your life. Now the question arises how can you employ the power of self control or delayed gratification in your life and get most of it in your life?

And here I will discuss with examples where in day to day life, you can exercise self control and power of self control.

These examples will show you where you can exercise self control over the always prevalent tendency of getting instant gratification. And this may prove one of the deciding factors, how far will you go in your pursuit of achieving your goals.


  1. Instead of falling prey of immediate temptation of a lazy morning, you can find out some time for exercising.
  2. In place of instant gratification of watching TV or arguing on Social Media, you can exercise power of self control and use that time to read some good books which will forward you in your career.
  3. Instead of immediate gratification of shopping for the things which are not needed, aren’t useful or are available only at an exorbitant price, you can exercise discipline of saving and investing the money properly for long term.
  4. Instead of falling prey of instant temptation of junk foods, sweets and ice cream you can exercise power of self control and choose to eat nutrient rich healthy food.

Start practicing self control now for a life full of contentment and achievements

The choices for exercising power of self control are limitless. More you exercise them in your day to day life, bigger your reward will be in future. In fact you will be rewarded many folds in comparison to self control you exercise.

Further, your rewards will also be more meaningful and more fulfilling. These will be much bigger and more satisfying for you than the instant and shallow gratification you are getting now.

Your, self restraint, for not falling prey of shallow useless stuff and instead of going for life enhancing habits and achievements, will decide what course your life will take in future.

So get prepared, exercise power of self control and take charge of your life now. Further, never allow short term pleasures take away from you, your long term achievements and fulfillment .

And start practicing power of self control now for your better future and of course for a better healthy and happy life full of contentment and achievements for you.

For knowing more about how can you live a life with happiness and achievements you can read my articles- How to Produce Happiness on Demand, How to Attain Expertise and Don’t Allow Anyone to Steal Your Happiness.

In these articles I have discussed the subject matter in further details. At the end, based on the discussion in the article, may I ask you to always be prepared for enduring short term pains in favor of long term gains.

Wish you a life full of contentment and achievements!  

Related articles-

Work life balance and how to achieve it

Make hard work your passion

Can delayed gratification be learned

How can I become more responsible

Y K Gupta

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Author: Y K Gupta

Author, Blogger, former AGM State Bank of India (SBI)

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