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Cognitive Flexibility, Working Memory, Future Happiness And The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

People are frugal guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” – Seneca

In 1972 Walter Mischel led a team of child psychologists from the prestigious Stanford University in the Stanford marshmallow experiment on delayed gratification.

Perhaps the most famous of all child psychology experiments, the Stanford marshmallow experiment made headlines around the world for its ability to read the future of any child foolish enough to live through the mental anguish of the test.

If the child used their executive functions and avoided eating the marshmallow then a beautiful future of professional, personal and financial happiness awaited.

Eat the marshmallow and the child’s life would spiral into a maelstrom of failure, misery and neglect.

48 years later Apocalypse Daddy and Alice sat down to ponder the future and the nature of marshmallows.

And carried out the experiment.

In laboratory conditions.

THE STANFORD MARSHMALLOW EXPERIMENT: WELCOME TO YOUR EXECUTIVE FUNCTION

In the original marshmallow experiment four year old children were given the choice between one marshmallow immediately or the glorious possibility of two marshmallows if they waited for 20 minutes.

But that wasn’t enough for this crack team of child psychologists.

They needed entertainment value.

So Stanford, as Stanford often do, made the experiment more fun, memorable and sadistic.

How did they do this?

The first marshmallow was placed on a plate in front of the child and left there. To tease, torment and force the children to question their sanity.

Eat the single marshmallow now, or wait and get two.

Sounds simple.

Entertainment and delayed gratification.

I bought some marshmallows.

All I needed was a willing volunteer to eat (what was left of) them.

“Daddy,” Alice said dragging an electric cable and the lamp it was attached to into the living room, “I can eat marshmallows. I’m four. I’m big. Can I eat marshmallows?”

“You can eat one or two. Which would you prefer?”

It was a rhetorical question.

“Two,” she said handing me the lamp. “Two is more than one. Can you fix this lamp? It broke.”

“I didn’t know lamps could break themselves?”

“Nevermind the lamp, talk to me about marshmallows.”

“We’re going to do a very famous experiment on executive function and marshmallows.”

“What’s eclectic fruntion?” She asked, momentarily intrigued by the beautiful thought of sugar, “And where are the marshmallows Daddy?”

“What is executive function? Well, I’m not a psychologist as you know.”

“No, you’re my Daddy and Mommy is my Mommy and, what’s a sicholologist?”

“It’s a very open question. For the moment let’s say a psychologist is a person who studies behaviours.”

“Like naughty boys and good girls?”

“That would fall into the job description, yes.”

“Can we eat marshmallows now?”

“You have to wait.”

“I like experiments. Has the experiment begun?”

“Not yet.”

“Then why can’t I have a marshmallow?”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

HEAD TO

https://theapocalypsedaddy.com/psychology-stanford-marshmallow-experiment/

TO FIND OUT IF ALICE ATE THE MARSHMALLOW

Day 45 – The Usual Suspects Re-boot

INT. APOCALYPSE APARTMENTS – LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

The room is in darkness. A shadowy figure moves among broken toys, scattered like dead soldiers on a battle field. Is this a ninja or a child gliding across the living room as if it wasn’t there? The only sound is the creaking of wood, the occasional beep of a Buzz Light-Year; a tiger growls from a puzzle, the last lights from a robot flicker, flicker. The batteries dying.

VOICE (O.S)
How are you doing?

A very tired child sits, hugging a teddy bear. It’s too dark to make out who it is.

CHILD
I’d say all my toys are broken Keyser.

The sound of Apocalypse Mommy and Apocalypse Daddy stiring is getting more vivid.

THE CAMERA PANS UP to an expensive looking vase, on the edge of a chest of drawers directly above the child’s head.

CHILD
Can I have a magnum?

VOICE (O.S)
I don’t see why not. It’s the last one.

The shadowy figure takes the ice-cream out of the wrapper and drops it at the child’s feet.

CHILD
Thank you.

The child eats the ice-cream as the vase comes tumbling down and smashes into a thousand pieces.

Raised voices.

lights flicker on and off. Doors bang open and closed.

Suddenly an explosion as the living room door slams open. Every light in the house is on.

Then darkness.

NARRATOR (V.O)
Apocalypse Apartments. Two nights ago. A supermarket bag loaded with glucose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate got jacked from by the front door. Pringles, Dorritos, Ice-cream, Oreos. There was enough for six weeks of good times in that bag of tricks. The Apocalypse Parents didn’t see anything, they were too far gone, they messed up. They heard a voice though. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

INT. ALICE AND LUCA’S BEDROOM – EARLY MORNING

It’s a blur of action as Apocalypse Mommy and Apocalypse Daddy crash into the bedroom. Alice lies comatose, half on the bed, half up the wall. Crystalline sugar solution has hardened into a pool at one end of the bed. She has a crazy sugar smile on her face. Luca lies completely upside down in his cot, his nappy by his ankles, his baby bottle full of coke, his legs twisted around the bars like an uncomfortable contortion artist. His cherub like hands clutch tightly to a handful of sweet wrappers. His little feet twitch like a baby kangaroo. These cats are still high.

APOCALYPSE MOMMY
Wake up sleepy heads. It’s time to face the music.

Alice twitches. Breathes heavily. And sighs.

ALICE
Not Daddy music. Please.

Luca does a fart in his sleep. Burps. Stirs.

APOCALYPSE MOMMY
Get up, the both of you. Somebody has broken my best vase, spilt sticky juice all over the piano, mushed a banana into the carpet, painted on the wall, broken my little china figurines and smashed your dad’s priceless 1963 Fender. And we want to know who.

ALICE
It was Luca.

LUCA
It was Alice.

APOCALYPSE MOMMY
How’d we know you two were going to say that?

APOCALYPSE DADDY
Get your stories straight.

APOCALYPSE MOMMY
Lineup. Kitchen. Now.

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