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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Is This the Key to Success?

Can You Resist?
In this short TED Talks video, Joachim de Posada describes the famous Marshmallow Experiment conducted in 1972 by Walter Mischel at Stanford University and presents his reproduction of the experiment with Hispanic children. If the video doesn't get you to laugh out loud, then (seriously), at your next physical, when the doctor asks if there any problems, tell him or her you've lost your sense of humor.

How important is the ability to delay gratification? DIY Investor would argue that its importance has increased over time with the advent and widespread use of credit cards along with the increased bombardment of ever clever advertising. I can't say that I've seen it, but I'm sure someone has worked up the number of advertisements we see within the first 15 minutes of logging on in the morning. Delaying gratification isn't easy; and, as Mr. Posada says at the very end, it is undoubtedly an important factor in the debt crisis the U.S. is now experiencing.

Follow Up Questions

This experiment has always fascinated me and suggested follow-up questions. I wonder if you do this with 100 kids who have older brothers and sisters, if it makes a difference compared to those who are an only child. After all, with older brothers and sisters you have to learn to wait for the things you want.

I wonder about the influence of parenting styles. To me, there are two types of parents. Johnny climbs up on the chair, falls off, and gives out a banshee scream and one type of parent runs over, scoops him up, scolds the chair, etc. The other expects little Johnny to pick himself up and take care of himself, reasoning that he got himself into the predicament. An aside:  guess which family votes Democrat and which is Republican?

I also often wonder why a presenter, like Mr. Posada,  in a presentation like this doesn't mention the person who originated the experiment.


  1. Instant gratification costs money! Whether it is your tax refund or check cashing or lottery winnings, you get can instant gratification for a price!

    I think it is very important to instill the value of delayed gratification in kids. I still don't understand why anyone would want to pay tax companies 10% or their refunds instead of waiting for a few days to get it from Uncle Sam!

  2. @MoneyCone Also, a little appreciated fact, but when you work and save for something you usually enjoy it more. At least that's my take.

  3. So true Robert! Might explain why so many lottery winners go broke soon after!

  4. Good stuff Robert. I'm SO with you: when I work and save and then I'm able to buy something, I enjoy that good or service SO much more!

    Delaying gratification is never easy but it's all about patience, and determining wants vs. needs.

  5. @ My Own Advisor I have to admit that I'm fascinated by the experiment and the whole concept of delayed gratification. I think it explains a lot beyond the world of finance including those who get married to quickly, choose the first career that seems interesting etc.

  6. This is such a great blogpost and thanks for including the video! I think your point about the importance of parenting is valid and I have to wonder with the american pandemic of instant gratification (thank you MacDonalds) AND the emergence of the hellicopter parents if this 1/3rd of the population (who waits for delayed gratification) has decreased in the past 30+ years.
    (I found you through MoneyNing by the way).