Articles, Blog

Is Your Personality Fixed, Or Can You Change Who You Are? | Invisibilia | NPR

September 29, 2019

The marshmallow test. You might know about this iconic social experiment — there are many references to it in pop culture. But what if I told you that what you’ve been
told is the point of the marshmallow test is actually completely wrong? So, here’s the basics of how it works. You sit a kid in front of a delicious marshmallow
and tell them that you’re gonna leave the room, and if they can resist the marshmallow
until you come back, they will get two marshmallows instead of one. It’s a test of delayed gratification: controlling
immediate desires in the service of long-term interest. A small test, seen as having huge implications. “The kids who successfully delay gratification
at this age do much better later in life. They make more money, they are happier, they
have better relationships, and they’re less likely to get into trouble.” So that idea caught fire. The marshmallow test seemed to prove that
we have these static personality traits deep inside us, and those traits determine the
rest of our lives. There is only one tiny problem with this interpretation. “That iconic story is upside-down wrong, that
your future is in a marshmallow, because it isn’t.” That’s Walter Mischel, the guy who actually
created the marshmallow test, and he told me that literally the point of the original
marshmallow study was to demonstrate not how fixed but how flexible people are, how easily
changed, if they simply reinterpret the way that they frame the situation around them. “The same little girl who can’t wait for even
a half minute for two little Oreo cookies — if she tries it, and I tell her ahead
of time, ‘You can make believe that they’re not really there, it’s just a picture in your
head,’ the same child waits fifteen minutes.” Though of course, that’s not the moral that
our culture drew. ” ‘It’s your destiny, your future’s in a marshmallow!’
And it’s far from your destiny.” “People can use their wonderful brains to
think differently about situations, to reframe them, to reconstrue them, to even reconstrue
themselves.” All that stuff in your mind — your beliefs,
cultural expectations, family upbringing, friendships — that stuff, Mischel explains,
profoundly influences how you see the world. Your brain uses it as a filter to interpret
everything around you. So when the stuff in someone’s mind changes,
they change. This is why Mischel sees people as fundamentally
flexible. He tells me that is the single most important
thing that he has stood for in his whole professional life. “What my life has been about is in showing
the potential for human beings to not be the victims of their biographies — not their
biological biographies, not their social biographies — and to show, in great detail, the many
ways in which people can change what they become and how they think.”

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Grizlerber September 21, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    I don't think I've ever heard the personality aspect of this particular test I've just heard the delay of self-gratification.

  • Reply rickiex September 21, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    agreed, people change every 5 years or so. i cant even imagine who i was a decade of ago

  • Reply Claudette S September 21, 2018 at 6:26 pm


  • Reply heartsmelody189 September 21, 2018 at 7:33 pm


  • Reply chuoky September 21, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    "People don't change, Jimmy!" – someone who got himself burnt a little

  • Reply Ak ZJ September 21, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Who else loves La Campanella?

  • Reply John Azzinaro September 21, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    flipbook animation combined with Tchaikovsky gives me Don Hertzfeldt flashbacks

  • Reply EDH ARMY September 22, 2018 at 12:43 am

    Nice video enjoyed it

  • Reply Sunshine Amando September 22, 2018 at 3:16 am

    Who is the artist? The art is amazing!

  • Reply Lukas September 22, 2018 at 3:24 am

    Beautiful video

  • Reply planetsoccer99 September 22, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    Great choice with the Tchaikovsky at the end there

  • Reply The Real Digger Barnes September 23, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Anything is possible through Christ.

  • Reply MBrace September 23, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    Can it be said that this proves why mental illness is more devastating than most of us realize. Thoughts and perceptions can literally make or break you.

  • Reply Peanuts Andcorn September 25, 2018 at 7:59 pm

  • Reply Anas Tasia September 26, 2018 at 8:42 am


  • Reply chip63us September 27, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    wait till they hang obama and hillary, and pray that God stops the abortion, baggage ruth beter gin

  • Reply William Jenkins September 30, 2018 at 4:33 am

    Please do a piece on the blah blah story about the curator of the National Museum of African American History and Rodney Carmichael yoked somebody's life's work as "serving time!!?"

  • Reply R0N1N November 28, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    This is beautiful.

  • Reply ALRIGHTY THEN March 21, 2019 at 8:30 am

    John Stossel wasn’t saying that people can’t change. He was saying that people who act this way end up in this situation while people who act that way end up in that situation. If they change to the other way of thinking, then they will end up in the situation caused by their new way of thinking.

  • Reply Potting Soil May 2, 2019 at 4:15 am

    Did I just hear Stossel??

  • Reply Spike DeJay August 23, 2019 at 2:22 am

    Cant believe this video only has 555 likes & 25 comments.

  • Leave a Reply