prioritise now

40 years of research into marshmallows at Stanford University

More than 40 years ago, research at Stanford University considered whether children offered a marshmallow immediately, would reject it in favour of receiving 2 marshmallows in 15 minutes’ time. This, and many other studies, examined whether human beings were inclined to delay gratification. This research has consistently led to two findings:
  • Most people (adults and children) are reluctant to delay gratification
  • People who are prepared to delay gratification tend to achieve more in life
While both are important findings, it is the first that I will focus on. It highlights the extent to which human beings live in the now and are focused on immediacy. It may be summarised as follows:
  • Yesterday is of little interest
  • Today is of enormous interest
  • Tomorrow is of limited interest
As far as creating and communicating messages that will spread – it is important to focus on the now and benefits that can be derived sooner rather than later. This explains why most people are not inclined to read history books or invest any more than required into superannuation. One is in the past, the other is in the future – and the interest in is the now – with a focus on instant gratification. Research suggests that social media has only served to increase our attention on the present and instant gratification.

The implications of this for messaging you intend to go viral are clear:
  • Communicate information relevant to now
  • Suggest action that can be taken now
  • Interpret things that are happening now
RECOMMENDATION – Create messages that have resonance and immediate application. Recognise that human beings have limited interest in the future and even less in the past.
D. John Carlson – +61 (0) 402 273 350 


 – To be published in November 2020 – CLICK HERE 

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