accomplishments · RESEARCH · slice of life

Save the Purple Ones!

Have you ever heard of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment? It was a research study about delayed gratification, self-control, and willpower.  Here’s more about it:

It began in the early 1960s at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, where Mischel and his graduate students gave children the choice between one reward (like a marshmallow, pretzel, or mint) they could eat immediately, and a larger reward (two marshmallows) for which they would have to wait alone, for up to 20 minutes. Years later, Mischel and his team followed up with the Bing preschoolers and found that children who had waited for the second marshmallow generally fared better in life. For example, studies showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores and a lower body mass index (BMI) 30 years after their initial Marshmallow Test. Researchers discovered that parents of “high delayers” even reported that they were more competent than “instant gratifiers”—without ever knowing whether their child had gobbled the first marshmallow (Retrieved from on 3/13/15.)

So what does this have to do with my kid?  Well, I’ll tell you.  While she can be impulsive (She’s four!), I think she’d wait the 20 minutes for the two marshmallows.  Here’s why:

Isabelle’s favorite color is purple.  Last summer, she wore purple nearly ever day.  (The only days she didn’t wear it was when I needed to do laundry.)  She has a purple winter coat, purple backpack, and purple quilt.  Even her lunchbox carrier is purple!  Purple, purple, purple!

IMG_1764Every day, Isabelle selects a Flintstone’s Vitamin to take. They come in three colors: orange, pink, and purple.  When she started taking Flintstone’s vitamins, she would select the purple ones.  Then the pink.  Finally, her bottle was filled with orange ones.  She didn’t like the color of them, but she ate them anyway.  (Little does she know my mother allowed me not to eat the orange ones when I was a kid because I claimed I didn’t like them.)  She didn’t like getting to the end of the bottle with just orange vitamins left. On her own, she developed a mantra in late December in an effort to make sure she had purple vitamins by the end of the bottle.  I’d present her with the several vitamins in the cap and I’d let her choose one.  Suddenly, she began saying “Save the purple ones!”  And wouldn’t you know it?  The last bottle of vitamins she finished ended with a purple one.  Her favorite.

The “save the purple” mentality continues.  It’s interesting to shake out a few vitamins into the cap every day to see which one she’ll pick.  Inevitably, she always selects a pink or orange one since she wants to save the purple ones.  But this morning, her hands had food in them when I came over with her vitamins.  I said, “tell me with your voice.”  She tried to put her banana and napkin down, but she looked like she couldn’t move fast enough.  So instead she blurted out, “purple.”  I was shocked.  I’m wondering if having she choose purple since I told her to pick with her voice, not with her fingers today.  Or maybe she felt she had picked enough pink and orange ones this week so she could treat herself to a purple one.  Whatever the reason is, I am still confident she’d pass that marshmallow test.

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