Worth Repeating: Measuring Students’ Self-Control: A ‘Marshmallow Test’ for the Digital Age

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[Source:  Mind Shift]

marshmallowThe “marshmallow test” invented by Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel and colleagues in the 1960s is famously known as a measure of willpower. The experiment gave preschoolers the option of either eating one mini-marshmallow right away or waiting 15 minutes to get two mini-marshmallows. Decades later, those who were better at delaying gratification, and resisted immediately snarfing the treat, ended up with stronger SAT scores, higher educational achievement and greater self-esteem and capacity to cope with stress in adulthood.

Now other psychology researchers have come up with a test that challenges the willpower of schoolkids to resist the brain-candy of today’s digital distractions — the YouTube videos, Instagram and mobile gaming apps like Angry Birds. Some people are calling it a “digital marshmallow test,” although it’s tailored for an educational context and doesn’t involve any sweets or near-term rewards.

Officially known as the “academic diligence task,” the new computer-based test offers students a choice between doing math or watching videos or playing a video game. The test was created by postdoctoral research fellow Brian Galla and associate psychology professor Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania, with Sidney D’Mello of the University of Notre Dame, as a better (and free) research tool for measuring self-control. The researchers hope this new tool will advance their studies of ways to improve academic perseverance in students.

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