The Marshmallow Test is a classic experimental measure of children’s self control. In the 1970’s Walter Mischel, a psychology professor at Stanford University, ran a series of experiments with four-year olds. He gave each child a marshmallow with an instruction that if they do not eat and wait 20 minutes, he will give them another.
Each child is tested in the room that was little larger than a closet with a desk and a chair, and had to stare at the marshmallow for 20 minutes. Of course, 20 minutes feels like eternality to four-years olds. All kids agonized over resisting the marshmallow. They all could not stop staring at it, poking it, and even licking it. However, some kids broke down in 20 seconds, some in 40, and others in two minutes. A few broke down even in last 20 minutes. Only one in three were able to resist the temptation and wait.
The Marshmallow Test clearly shows how weak we are in front of the temptation. The Marshmallow test reminds us of the story of Adam and Even. In the Bible, God commands them to “not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” However, when the serpent temps Eve, she sees that “the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight[ful] to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” She eats the fruit and also offers one to Adam.
Obedience is the simplest thing (because all you have to do is just follow), yet the hardest thing because we are naturally sinners. We naturally tend to choose what looks good and “delight[ful] to the eyes,” instead of what God has told us to choose. Most of the times, what I want is so different from what God wants, and we agonize over resisting what we want to do.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Roman 12:2)
Obeying God is not hard when we believe that He is the Creator who loves us deeply, and also when we love Him. When we start obeying Him, we begin to discover that God’s will for us is “good, pleasing and perfect.” Though it is the constant fight between what I want against what God wants—choose what God wants and discover the perfect will He prepared for us.
– Shua Kim
Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 3-6
Roman, Chapter 12, verse 2