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What the Marshmallow Test Really Teaches About Self-Control

The image is iconic: A little kid sits at a table, his face contorted in concentration, staring down a marshmallow. Over the last 50 years, the “Marshmallow Test” has become synonymous with temptation, willpower, and grit. Walter Mischel’s work permeates popular culture. There are “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!” t-shirts and Sesame Street episodes where Cookie Monster learns delayed gratification so he can join the Cookie Connoisseurs Club. Investment companies have used the Marshmallow Test to encourage retirement planning. And when I mentioned to friends that I was interviewing the Marshmallow Man about his new book, The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, nobody missed the reference.