What is the Marshmallow Test?

Did you ever hear about the Marshmallow Test? This is one of the most influential psychological experiment about self-control by Walter Mischel. The test is quite simple. A small child was served a marshmallow and was given two choices: you can eat one marshmallow now or, if you can wait, you get to eat two marshmallows later. If you were that child, could you wait for that tortured moment? The research found that that the children who were able to wait longer for the two marshmallows were more likely to have better life outcomes and more successful life styles. The study emphasized that delayed gratification and self-control are major factors for a successful life.


Then, what about our children in the Swimming Home shelter or at the Half Day School? Although I have yet to conduct the same experiment so far, but I bet all of our children would eat the marshmallow in a second. It is not surprising at all. According to recent psychological research, a children’s attitude can be different depending on the financial circumstance. The children in a poor environment tend to take action to get a certain reward immediately instead of waiting for an uncertain future reward. In other words, the effects of poverty, hunger and homelessness on children may lower self-control and patience for delayed gratification.

Why talk about this boring psychology research now? Because this research is associated with us here at DEPDC directly. While we are teaching children about English, music or dance, the children cannot sit on a chair more than 20 minutes and want more games, want to listen to music and play recklessly. As this is a struggle for many a new volunteer here, Ajan Sompop brought forward some good advice. He suggested to understand the children instead of only focusing on teaching them. It makes us here at DEPDC remember that the children are our teachers as much as we are their’s and we must learn everything from them. As a second recent research study said when poor children may have low self-control, children’s learning attitudes may be influenced by their poor families and bad risky environments. Therefore, our children may have a bad educational attitude based on external factors. Suddenly, we recognize that we should learn understanding above all to become a good teacher.


DEPDC has had many teachers this term, from our new international volunteers to all of our International Student Volunteers, and all have learned just as much from our students as they have taught. All of our teaching here at DEPDC is about more than just teaching a subject, it is about teaching our children to understand, and in turn, learning to understand ourselves.


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