By Ingfei Chen
The “marshmallow test” invented by Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel and colleagues in the 1960s is famously known as a measure of willpower. The experiment gave preschoolers the option of either eating one mini-marshmallow right away or waiting 15 minutes to get two mini-marshmallows. Decades later, those who were better at delaying gratification, and resisted immediately snarfing the treat, ended up with stronger SAT scores, higher educational achievement and greater self-esteem and capacity to cope with stress in adulthood.
Now other psychology researchers have come up with a test that challenges the willpower of schoolkids to resist the brain-candy of today’s digital distractions — the YouTube videos, Instagram and mobile gaming apps like Angry Birds. Some people are calling it a “digital marshmallow test,” although it’s tailored for an educational context and doesn’t involve any sweets or near-term rewards.