Don’t Get Stuck on the Marshmallow

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The famous marshmallow study is referenced in just about every positive psychology book these days, as a thought provoking  example of how time orientation has an effect on who we are and what we do. The experiment, originally conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University in the 1960’s involves 4-year old kids who are given one marshmallow and then told that they can eat the one marshmallow OR wait and receive a second marshmallow.

Follow-up studies came almost 40 years later and it was discovered that the children who exhibited delayed gratification (waited it out to receive the second marshmallow treat) went on have higher SAT scores plus become more successful individuals.

Admittedly, instant gratification hasn’t proven itself too dynamic.

Instant gratification can also trap spiritual seekers. From 21st Century Science and Health, “Audible prayer can be impressive, giving instant gratification and awe. But does it produce any lasting advantage? As we think about this more, we see that zeal “not based on knowledge,”[1] is precarious. Spoken prayer can even tempt a reaction unfavorable to spiritual growth or resolutions. Lip service can also distort a healthy perception of our Godlike responsibilities. Pay attention! Make sure that the motive for prayer doesn’t embrace the love of popularity, because this actually discourages spirituality.”


[1] Rom 10:2

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One thought on “Don’t Get Stuck on the Marshmallow

  1. Prayer IV - Everyday Spirituality November 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm Reply

    [...] humility, gratitude, and love which our words express, and God accepts this. We can get our act together and help our self. We can welcome new knowledge and apply it in our prayers. We don’t need to be [...]

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