Marshmallow test

Wheaton family dental practice

New study sheds light into flaws of classic marshmallow test.

So I never cared much for the original marshmallow test. Something about it just made me want to question the validity of it’s results from the moment I first heard of it.  I actually argued against it at a lunch table with several Dawson gurus (a whole other thread or book could be donated to the bad science they use).  I’ll just say, read this thread if interested in that.  Yes it’s long but you will learn more unbiased information from people not trying to sell you $3000 courses, than anywhere else that I am aware of.  Plus it doesn’t feel like a religious cult, like the for profit occlusal training centers do.  I am a strong believer in the orofacial pain model, as is science, just check TMD consensus papers.

I also think Dawson people are sheepish and far too naive in believing self supporting studies.  I don’t think they critically question the results they see, hence why they passionately believed occlusal equilibration cured bruxism, why they now believe toothbrush/paste cause abfractions from 1 ex-vivo study, and why they believed the marshmallow conclusions.  Apologies for the digression…..

So I was happy to see someone challenge the validity of the marshmallow test and show one of what I feel is several major flaws.  I list what I feel are the major flaws.

  1. The reward is not viewed with equal desire by all the children.  Even if they did all love marshmallows at the beginning of the study, a child that age changes their mind so quickly and frequently and their answers are so playful the true desire for the reward at the time of the test would be impossible to gauge.
  2. I always felt the original showed nothing more than the child’s preconceived trust of adults.  Children with bad parents don’t trust adults as much.  Children that don’t trust adults, don’t have a strong ability to delay gratification when dealing with adults.  Lack of delayed gratification and poor SAT scores are both results of bad parenting to some extent.  It’s not the lack of delayed gratification that causes poorer scores, it’s the parenting.  I do believe some parenting skills are genetic and thus there is of course some genetic component directly and indirectly responsible.  However, conclusions of the original study were too superficial.
  3. I think both studies (original and this one) show nothing more than a good upbringing and positive adult role models lead to a more productive adults.  In the original study (from the 70’s) it’s much more likely that the children that took the marshmallow quickly had less trust in adults in general due to their upbringing, most likely rightfully so.  Thus their success in life was a symptom of their upbringing, just as their lack of trust of adults demonstrated by taking the marshmallow quicker represented that same symptom of upbringing.


Update on the marshmallow test and all it’s flaws.