Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Take on the Marshmallow Experiment

I just finished reading an article that apparently explains "What Marshmallows Tell Us About Silicon Valley". It's a take on the classic Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.

On and off, I have considered what I would have done if I were in that situation... and what would I do if I were in that situation now?

I honestly believe that it doesn't matter when it took place, I am 99% certain that if the 'marshmallows' offered were basically of equal value to me, I would eat the first one then and there.

Apparently that implies that I have little patience and not much self-control. While that is true to an extent (I mean, everyone can point to moments in their lives when that is true), I don't believe that is the reason for me eating the marshmallows straight away.

For me, it's a lot simpler: firstly, I don't really care that much for 'more candy' and as far as I can remember, I never have. For me, a second marshmallow in 15 minutes time just seems like a stupid thing to wait for... but then that may be what the experiment proves. Secondly, however, is something that I think more defines why I would not wait.

I was raised to believe that expecting a 'host' to have to do more work for me is unacceptable (where in this case, the host was the experimenter). As far as I'm concerned, a host provides their guests with a venue to facilitate a good time. Although they probably will have food, drink, music or whatever, I've never been to someone's home and then complained after leaving "man, they could have at least offered me a coffee!"

When I was a boy and my friends would come over, my parents made sure that they all knew to "make yourself at home". That means to feel comfortable and if you want something to eat or drink and it's not been offered, that doesn't mean that you have to go without. As my parents would say "you're a big boy... use your legs!".

On a tangent now, but I don't want to give the impression that our home was "that place" where everyone just raised themselves. Quite the opposite, actually. "Make yourself at home" meant "you're part of the family", not "treat this place as the place you live in". Therefore, conversely, if you didn't want to be part of our extended family, that was fine... just don't expect us to offer you the same courtesies. That meant some interesting interactions between my friends and my parents at times... but at least everyone knew where everyone stood!

Anyway, back to the marshmallows. If I am a guest somewhere and I am offered something, with the option of more later, then for me it would just be rude to expect my host to then have to go out of their way to organise the extra stuff. If it was already prepared and they actually wanted me to have it, they would have offered it to begin with. Anything other than that and they were obviously just being nice and I would obviously not want to put them out. If I wanted another marshmallow, surely I should get one myself at a time and place that's more convenient to everyone.

So, long story short: as far as I'm concerned, the reason I would take the marshmallow today has only a little to do with impulse control, and mainly all to do with the fact that I would consider it rude to have the host have to get me something else later on. Instead, stop worrying about me, sit down and have one yourself!

Oh yeah, and you could at least offer me a coffee :)

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