The Marshmallow Test and how High IQ does not Predetermine Success

Updated: Mar 31, 2020



The marshmallow test was an ingenious study conducted by scientists in the 1960’s with four-year-olds at a preschool on the campus of Stanford University.

The findings were startling and offer an important lesson for us all: 

Four-year-olds who passed the marshmallow test were more likely to reach important life goals, have better grades in school, and live healthier lives.

This test showed that a “high IQ” alone had little to do with overall success in life.

Instead, it uncovered one of the most vital of human traits…

The exam went like this: researchers Walter Mischel and Ebbe B. Ebbesen placed four-year-olds into a plain room with no toys or distractions and given a single marshmallow.

But here was the catch, the children were told if they could wait for the researchers to return and not eat the marshmallow, they’d be given a second marshmallow.

The researchers then left the room for fifteen long, agonizing minutes.


The children, left on their own with the marshmallow, displayed a variety of responses.

Four-year-olds with strong levels of self-control were still tortured by the inability to eat the marshmallow, but they found ways to distract themselves.

Those children with the ability to delay gratification for a greater reward later, spoke to themselves, sang songs, played games, or covered their eyes from the marshmallow. Some even tried to sleep off the growing urge to eat the marshmallow.

Four-year-olds with the lowest levels of self-control ate the marshmallow immediately, or used various tactics to cheat the exam, eating the marshmallow in small bites.

Now the surprising part:

Twelve, fourteen and seventeen years later those same children were examined again, this time by reviewing a variety of elements:

  • Educational attainment - Did they meet their personal educational goals?

  • SAT Scores - A standardized national test in the USA used for college admissions.

  • BMI (Body Mass Index) - Where the children obese or in good health?

  • And other Life Measures - How well were the children doing in life?

This exam showed that those who have the ability to control their emotional impulses and delay gratification were able to work and reach longer term goals and live all around better lives.

The Inspired’s lesson - High IQ is no guarantor of reaching one’s life goals or living a well rounded, happy or fulfilling life. 

Major successes are not the product of high IQ, but rather a collection of planned and well executed moments. 

In other words, it's the small things we do when no one is watching that add up to living a better life and reaching our goals. 

It’s studying for an exam weeks in advance because you know it could be the difference in reaching university or college. 

For adults, it’s working towards your personal life goals later in life.

Life Foundations - Living a successful, inspired life is:

  • Controlling our impulses and placing intelligence into our emotions = emotional intelligence. 

  • It’s knowing to cherish your friends and family as you’ll need them throughout your life.

  • It’s knowing that eating fried food over time will likely give you cancer

  • It’s knowing that eating a bag of chips or chocolate late at night is bad for you long term.

  • It’s knowing failing to sleep 7 - 8 hours each night will increase your chances of many diseases later in life.

For a updated version of the Marshmallow Test checkout the video published by igniter media in 2009: 


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Goran Yerkovich

The-Inspired.com 

#marshmallowtest #emotionalintelligence

Hi! Welcome to my site. My name is Goran Yerkovich and my articles have been featured on Fatherly, MSN, Yahoo, and Flipboard, reaching 1.8 million readers in over 100 countries. This website is packed full of self-improvement strategies and career advice that will transform your life. Subscribe Today and Receive my Free 40-Page eBook!

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