Predicting Kids' Success ... with Marshmallows

Researchers find that tempting children with one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows later might determine which kids will be successful in life based on their choice. Michelle Miller has the story.
Testing footage shows children desperately trying to resist temptation. Their dilemma? Ring the bell, and get one marshmallow now. Or, wait, and get two marshmallows later.

It's called "the marshmallow test" and it can predict the future - sort of. Originally conducted more than 40 years ago, the studies continue today. Researchers consistently find that the group of kids who could force themselves to wait tend to have better lives and relationships. They also averaged 210 points higher on their SATs than the kids who could not hold off.

"If you can be focused on your goal and you can have self control to achieve that goal you can achieve a lot more in life," said author Ellen Galinsky.

Focus and self control are two of the essential life skills included in Galinsky's new book, "Mind in the Making." They're simple ideas, but difficult to master in a wired society where multi-tasking is valued and distractions are commonplace.

"If you really need to do something, you have something hard to work on - then you need to find a way to pay attention," Galinsky said.

Galinsky suggests a game like "reverse Simon Says" - which forces kids to focus.

Also, balance simple games with high-tech ones. Galinsky says kids can learn with the same passion they show playing.

Check out this YouTube clip. The father of the two-and-a-half-year-old claims it's the first time she picked up his iPad. She gets it right away.

"Computers appeal to children in a very different way. They actually appeal to children in a way that they learn best. They're active learners, they're not passive," Galinsky said.

It's the big challenge for parents today: raising children who can get what they want with their fingertips, but who must also learn that some things in life are worth waiting for.

Watch the Marshmallow Test

  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is the co-host of "CBS This Morning: Saturday." As an award-winning correspondent based in New York, she has reported for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. She joined CBS News in 2004.