Home Leadership What do Marshmallows and Public Policy have in Common?

What do Marshmallows and Public Policy have in Common?


In the article “Marshmallows and Public Policy,” David Brooks argues that developing delayed gratification from a young age leads to “better adult outcomes” and should therefore be considered by policy makers for upcoming policies. To validate this claim he references Walter Mischel’s experiment in which 4-year-olds’ were given the option of eating one marshmallow or waiting (demonstrating self-control) and receiving two marshmallows. The children who waited the longest were found, on average, to be more successful later in life. With the importance of delayed gratification being proven by Mischel, Brooks comes to the conclusion that if policy makers put a greater emphasis on developing an effective teaching method of delayed gratification, it could help the nation as a whole. Brooks article explains that the current structural reforms are often “disappointingly modest,” because policy makers are not asking “how do we get people to master… self-control that leads to success?” Brooks paraphrases Jonathan Haidt, when he says “[w]hat works… is creating stable, predictable environments for children, in which good behavior pays off”; which is significant because though delayed gratification isn’t inherent to everyone, it can be taught. Brooks argues policy makers should consider including delayed gratification in their policies.


Brooks, D. (2006, May 06). Marshmallows and Public Policy. Retrieved June 01, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/opinion/07brooks.html

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Stephanie is the lead editor of Blueline News. As she works toward her English and journalism degree at Northwestern University, she also maintains a part-time job and two internships. Stephanie hopes to one day pursue a career in writing, reporting, and storytelling.