The Golden Goose Awards recognize federally funded scientists for basic research that has changed the world as we know it, often in unexpected ways. The winners of the “Trick or Treat” award this year are Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and Philip Peake for their work on what has been come to be known as the Marshmallow Test. The experiment itself was simple. Researchers sat a young child in a room and gave her a marshmallow (or other treat). The child could either eat it right away or they could wait a few minutes and get two marshmallows. As the children were followed over time, the ability to delay gratification was tied to many measures of success in later life.
This work has fundamentally changed our understanding of human development, self-control, and education. This work was funded by both NIH and NSF (BCS 0624262). NSF Program Officer Amber Story was invited to the award ceremony for her recent award which looked at brain scans of the original marshmallow test cohorts who are now in their 40’s and 50’s. Radiolab did a nice report on the study and you can watch endless cute videos of kids resisting the urge to eat the marshmallow online including this one.