Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Marshmallow Test

The Marshmallow Test is a well-known test of how kids deal or fail to deal with frustration. I've seen one explanation of the test where it is claimed that it divides kids into those who are affected by the present and those who are affected by the future. The explanation is obvious nonsense because nobody can be affected by the future - it hasn't happened yet. The test is simply a test of how kids deal with frustration.

But hang on - surely it's more than that? Surely the Marshmallow Test and similar games could easily form part of any child's education? They could be a way of introducing them to frustration and how best to deal with it. Those who do learn to deal with it tend to be more well-adjusted in later life, so the test is genuinely useful. So maybe it could be more than useful,  maybe it could be educational too?

The point that jumps out at me in this presentation is the role of the viewer. How are we supposed to react? I don't think we are expected to react at all, but merely watch and be possibly be interested in the results. The clip isn't making the point that obviously could be made, that we might use simple tests like this to teach kids to understand their own psychology.Yet even from a very young age, we could teach them to be more self-aware, to understand why they react as they do.

Curiously enough, I think the clip simply expects the viewer to watch and move on. It expects us to be - yes got it in one - to be a bystander.


Macheath said...

Good point!

'Surely the Marshmallow Test and similar games could easily form part of any child's education?'

The Marshmallow Test has a major flaw in the eyes of educational theorists; those who perform well are usually the product of homes where children are well-cared for and nurtured by trusted adults who communicate with them and encourage them.

Emotionally or materially deprived children, on the other hand, have often already learned to be opportunists, seizing what they believe may at any time be snatched away by fate or capricious or indifferent adults.

This test, at least in my experience, is seen and described by orthodox progressive educationalists as anathema, undermined by its perceived bias in favour of middle-class children.

This, IMHO, constitutes a powerful argument for dispensing with educational theorists altogether.

A K Haart said...

I agree - get rid of them.

James Higham said...

Russia is a great place to learn to deal with frustration too.

A K Haart said...

JH - I've never been there but to me, Russia seems addicted to despair - maybe it's all those novels I read.