The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment: Background information when reading Perfect Little World

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Perfect Little World

by Kevin Wilson

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson X
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 352 pages
    Oct 2017, 464 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts

Buy This Book

About this Book

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

This article relates to Perfect Little World

Print Review

In Perfect Little World, Dr. Preston Grind and his team of researchers conduct the "Marshmallow Experiment" on the children living at the Infinite Family Project. A marshmallow is placed before a child and he/she has a choice: eat it right away, or wait fifteen minutes and receive two marshmallows instead of one. The experiment was conceived by scientists at Stanford University, led by psychologist Walter Mischel, and conducted throughout the 1960s and 70s on roughly 650 children. It's known as the marshmallow experiment but that wasn't always the treat, cookies and pretzels were also used depending on what the subject preferred.

In the 1980s, Mischel checked in on his study subjects and made a startling discovery: those who were able to delay gratification by waiting for the second marshmallow reported higher SAT scores, were less likely to be overweight or addicted to drugs or alcohol, and were more "socially adept." These findings led Mischel to infer that those with better mechanisms for regulating self-control were more likely to be successful later in life, and the "marshmallow experiment" captured the popular imagination.

The experiment has its detractors. Some argue that the sample size is too small to effectively prove Mischel's correlation—only 93 of the original 600+ participants supplied their information for the followup study. For others, there is a "nature vs. nurture" issue, for children raised in an unreliable or impoverished environment, "the only guaranteed treats are the ones you have already swallowed," according to researchers from a study conducted in response to the original.

Mischel agrees with the latter issue; in an interview with PBS he notes that an individual's personality and ability to withstand temptation "depends enormously on environment." But the larger point for Mischel is not whether the children choose to wait, or even why, but how. Many of the children in the experiments employed techniques—sometimes provided to them by researchers—for distracting themselves from the temptation—what they call the "hot stimulus." By singing a song, envisioning the marshmallow as a fluffy cloud, or even just closing their eyes, delaying the gratification, or ignoring the hot stimulus became much easier.

While there does seem to be a correlation between self-control and success, the ability to withstand temptation is not genetically predetermined. Kids can be taught techniques similar to those employed in the experiment to improve their chances for success, in school and beyond, and even adults could find them potentially useful. In 2015, Mischel published a science/self-help book that expands on this premise called The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control is the Engine of Success. Former colleague and MacArthur genius grant recipient Angela Duckworth has used this research to emphasize the importance of teaching students about willpower in her bestselling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

To see the marshmallow experiment in action, click on the video below:

This "beyond the book article" relates to Perfect Little World. It originally ran in February 2017 and has been updated for the October 2017 paperback edition.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Incendiaries
    The Incendiaries
    by R O. Kwon
    Phoebe Lin, the glamorous but tortured heroine of The Incendiaries, is convinced she has no room for...
  • Book Jacket: Your Duck Is My Duck
    Your Duck Is My Duck
    by Deborah Eisenberg
    In this collection of six short stories, Deborah Eisenberg presents characters confronting limits ...
  • Book Jacket: Unsheltered
    by Barbara Kingsolver
    Willa Knox's house is falling down. She recently inherited a Victorian residence in Vineland, ...
  • Book Jacket: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
    Ya Ta, the main character in Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's novel, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Code Girls
by Liza Mundy

The riveting story of the USA's courageous and accomplished WWII female American code breakers.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Kennedy Debutante
    by Kerri Maher

    "An engrossing tale of family, faith and love in the life of one remarkable woman." - Booklist
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Gone So Long

Andre Dubus III's First Novel in a Decade

A masterpiece of thrilling tension and heartrending empathy.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

G H E Rope A H Will H H

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.