There was a long-term study started at Stanford in the 1960s where the researchers put hungry four year olds in a room with a marshmallow on a table and told them not to eat it. They were told that if they didn’t eat it, when the researcher came back from running an errand they would get two marshmallows.
Some of the kids ate the marshmallow as soon as the adult left the room. Some thought about it for a while and then ate the marshmallow and others (about a third) waited until the researcher returned and got the two marshmallows. So far, so predictable.
But the researchers followed the children and years later checked up on how they were doing. The group that waited for the two marshmallows had more successful marriages, higher incomes, greater career satisfaction, better health, and — according to the study — more fulfilling lives.
Apparently it’s all about your ability to control your impulses, something that Julian Savulescu is saying at the conference here in Oxford could be an important aspect of human enhancement.
More about the marshmallow experiment here.