The Marshmallow Quiz and what it can predict about the future of a child.

Dear Parents,

If you are reading this, perhaps the importance of emotional learning is not lost on you. Over time, it has proven to be the number #1 predictor of success in life and academics. In a study conducted by CASEL, a social-emotional learning (SEL) organization, research yielded that, “SEL interventions that address CASEL’s five main strengths increased students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, compared to students who did not take part in such SEL programs.” They conclude, “Students taking part in SEL programs also showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school.”

The five aforementioned competencies of social & emotional learning that CASEL determined provides a brilliant framework that translates into various skills. These skills relate to emotional identification and regulation, social awareness, and decision-making skills.

Parents are the first educators of the child and impactful on the ever-impressionable minds of children with the home being the classroom. But even with that kind of proximity, it’s still hard for parents to identify the actual emotional strengths and weaknesses of their child. Many times, parents do not find out until it is too late. Who can understand this better than perhaps the parents of Kayla Rolland? Rolland was a first-grader who unfortunately fell victim to the youngest shooter in the history of shootings in 2000, a 6-year-old boy. It often takes a great tragedy to enact change, and this event became a catalyst to open everyone’s eyes to the importance of understanding a child’s mind. That year became the pivotal step towards the US, embracing social & emotional learning for all school students as a priority.

Despite the ongoing improvements, very few real experiments have happened with children as their subject in this context. However, a popular study that made great strides in the realm of SEL, the Stanford Marshmallow experiment conducted by Walter Michel in 1972, helped change this. The experiment comprised placing a marshmallow, or another treat, in front of a child and telling them they could either eat the treat now or wait until the curator returned (without eating the treat) and receive two marshmallows. During the waiting period, the treat remained directly in front of the child with no supervision, leaving the child to decide whether “to eat or skip”.

The experiment aimed to measure a child’s response towards immediate gratification vs. inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility. Their decision to give in to impulse vs. controlling the urge and ability to use their minds to distract themselves or remind them of the goal. Honing in on the growth of these executive functions can ensure your child can follow and remember instructions and being able to handle many things at once.We have leveraged the results and other markers of social & emotional learning to create a quiz that determines the strengths & areas of improvements in the social-emotional learning ladder. It may seem like a little fun quiz, but the results could surprise you! We hope that you find the quiz insightful for your kids too.

Winning Words Project Team