One Marshmallow or Two?

Daniel 1:12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.

Psychologist, Walter Mischel, performed an experiment which seems very similar to that proposed by Daniel.  Preschool children were told they could have one marshmallow immediately. However, if they would wait while Dr. Mischel ran an errand, they could have two marshmallows at his return. Some preschoolers grabbed the marshmallow immediately.  Those who waited struggled with self-control by covering their eyes, resting their heads on their arms, talking to themselves, singing, or sleeping. Those who persevered received the two-marshmallow reward.  The experiment, however, was not complete.  The participants were monitored in a follow-up study.  It was discovered that those who waited for an extra marshmallow were, as adolescents, still able to delay gratification.  They were more socially competent, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life.   One the other hand, those who demanded instant gratification were, as adolescents, more likely to be stubborn, indecisive, and stressed.

Edmund Burke, author, orator, political theorist, philosopher and member of the English Parliament in the 1700’s made a pertinent statement which concisely states the necessity of practicing personal self-control when he said,  “men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put mural chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

“Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman, Bantan Books, quoted in Reader’s Digest, January, 1996

Imprimis, Vol. 20, #9

By Dr. Gayle Woods

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