The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment is ubiquitously discussed and endlessly referenced in seminars, motivational talks or books urging the importance of deferred gratification.
Two problems with the experiment, as far as I can see, aren't ever mentioned in the literature. Here they are.
1. In order to wait for the second marshmallow, you have to believe the researcher will come back.
If all you've had in life up to that point is concrete evidence that grown-ups let you down, you're gonna eat that first marshmallow as quick as damn possible. This doesn't demonstrate a lack of grit or persistence. It's a pragmatic decision to take whatever you can get borne of hard-earned life experience. This applies to other things too...
2. Marshmallows? Really?
I risk sounding facetious so let me get to the point: shallow marshmallowy rewards don't adequately replicate anything in real life. We don't work to get metaphorical marshmallows. Study after study shows that if our work is cognitively demanding, increased financial rewards for successful completion negatively impact performance. The world isn't set up to give marshmallows to persistent people.
Like I said on this day last year; the reward for hard work in real life? It's not marshmallows. It's more hard work. But it's the work that matters. That's what we're here for. It's up to us to just. Keep. Going.
p.s. Last word this year goes to Steve Pressfield. This is from his seminal Turning Pro: