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Marshmallow Experiment and Delayed Gratification Paper

Marshmallow Experiment and Delayed Gratification Paper


Title: The Marshmallow Experiment and Delayed Gratification: A Reflection on a School Experience


The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, conducted by Walter Mischel in 1972, is a renowned study in the realm of delayed gratification. This study has provided valuable insights into the ability of individuals, particularly children, to resist immediate temptations in favor of greater rewards in the future. In this paper, I will recount a significant interaction from my past school experience, analyze the behaviors exhibited during this interaction, explore the predictors of these behaviors, and delve into the roles of culture and situational context. Furthermore, I will discuss how this interaction relates to the concept of delayed gratification, emphasizing the immediate rewards and the overall importance of understanding and cultivating this ability. Finally, I will examine the biological and social determinants that contribute to personality, as per Rotter’s perspective, and their influence on the observed behaviors.

  1. Description of the Interaction

During my high school years, I was part of a competitive academic environment where grades played a pivotal role in determining one’s future prospects. The interaction I will discuss occurred during a particularly challenging period when our class was preparing for a crucial final examination. Several students, including myself, were working together in a study group. The central theme of this interaction was the sharing of resources, specifically study materials and strategies, among group members.

The critical behaviors that emerged during this interaction included cooperation, competition, trust, and selfishness. As the final examination neared, our group faced a dilemma: should we share our most effective study resources and strategies, potentially improving the collective performance, or should we guard these resources to gain a personal advantage, knowing that it might hinder the overall success of the group?

  1. Predictors of Behaviors and Rotter’s Needs

To understand the predictors of the behaviors exhibited during this interaction, we can apply Julian B. Rotter’s Social Learning Theory, which emphasizes the role of reinforcement and expectations in shaping behavior. In the context of our study group interaction, several factors influenced our behaviors.

Firstly, the individual’s locus of control, a concept central to Rotter’s theory, plays a significant role in predicting behaviors. Individuals with an internal locus of control believe that their actions can directly influence outcomes, while those with an external locus of control feel that external forces have greater control over their lives. In our study group, individuals with an internal locus of control were more likely to cooperate and share resources, believing that their efforts would contribute to the group’s success, which, in turn, would benefit them individually. Conversely, those with an external locus of control were more inclined to be selfish, perceiving the situation as a zero-sum game where only personal gain mattered.

Another predictor of behavior in this interaction was self-efficacy, which is the belief in one’s ability to achieve a specific goal. Individuals with higher self-efficacy were more likely to share their study strategies and materials, as they felt confident that their contributions would positively impact the group’s performance. Conversely, those with lower self-efficacy may have been less willing to share, fearing that their efforts would not make a substantial difference.

Rotter’s theory also considers the concept of reinforcement value, which refers to the subjective importance of a particular outcome. In our study group, the reinforcement value of academic success was high for all members. However, the reinforcement value of short-term, individual success (higher grades on assignments) versus long-term, collective success (performing well on the final examination) varied among individuals. Those who prioritized the long-term collective success were more likely to cooperate, while those who valued short-term individual success were more prone to selfishness.

  1. The Role of Culture and Situation

The behaviors exhibited in our study group interaction were influenced by both cultural and situational factors. From a cultural perspective, the competitive academic environment and societal values regarding academic achievement played a significant role. In this culture, academic success was highly esteemed, and individuals often felt pressured to perform exceptionally well. This cultural context encouraged competition among students, as achieving the highest grades was seen as a symbol of status and future success. This competitive culture likely contributed to the selfish behaviors observed in our study group, as students were driven by the desire to outperform their peers.

Additionally, the situational context played a crucial role in shaping behaviors. The impending final examination created a sense of urgency and heightened the perceived value of short-term individual success. As a result, some individuals were more inclined to hoard study materials and strategies, believing that doing so would give them a competitive advantage on immediate assignments and quizzes, even if it potentially compromised the group’s long-term success.

  1. Delayed Gratification and Immediate Rewards

The interaction in our study group can be linked to the concept of delayed gratification, as it involved choices between immediate rewards and long-term benefits. Delayed gratification refers to the ability to forgo immediate, smaller rewards in favor of larger, delayed rewards. In our case, the immediate reward was the prospect of higher grades on individual assignments and quizzes, achieved by hoarding valuable study resources and strategies. However, the long-term benefit was the potential for higher performance on the final examination, which would have a more substantial impact on our overall grades and future academic success.

The immediate rewards of selfish behavior in our study group included the satisfaction of individual achievement, the perception of gaining a competitive edge, and the relief of short-term academic pressures. Conversely, those who chose to cooperate and share resources delayed their gratification in pursuit of the long-term reward: collective success on the final examination, which would lead to higher overall grades and future opportunities.

The importance of delayed gratification in this context cannot be overstated. While some individuals may have experienced short-term satisfaction through selfishness, those who prioritized delayed gratification by cooperating and contributing to the group’s success had the potential to reap greater rewards in the form of higher overall academic achievement. The final examination was the ultimate test of delayed gratification, as success in that endeavor required sacrificing immediate rewards for the promise of greater future benefits.

In conclusion, the interaction within our high school study group offered a fascinating lens through which to explore the concepts of delayed gratification, behavior prediction according to Rotter’s theory, and the influence of culture and situational context. The behaviors exhibited were driven by a complex interplay of individual differences in locus of control, self-efficacy, and reinforcement value. Cultural pressures and the competitive academic environment further shaped these behaviors, with some individuals prioritizing immediate rewards and others embracing delayed gratification. Ultimately, this interaction underscores the importance of understanding and cultivating delayed gratification, as it has far-reaching implications for individual success and well-being in a variety of contexts, including education and beyond.

Marshmallow Experiment and Delayed Gratification Paper



The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment is a well-recognized study on delayed gratification. This study was conducted in 1972 by Walter Mischel, a Stanford University professor.

Select an interaction from a past work or school experience and write a 1,000-word paper on the interaction, the relation of the interaction with the Marshmallow Experiment and delayed gratification, along with biological and social determinants that contribute to personality.

Address the following:

1. Describe the interaction in the introductory paragraph, including any critical behaviors.

2. What are some predictors of the behaviors of different individuals in the interaction? According to Rotter, what are their needs?

3. Is the behavior produced by culture or the situation in which the person is involved?

4. How does the interaction relate to delayed gratification? What were the immediate rewards? Why is it important?

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