Influencing the Reptilian Brain


Young Katy’s eyes are locked on the treat sitting on the gray metal desk in front of her. It looks like such a tasty morsel. It reminds her of the ones her mom puts in her hot chocolate on cold mornings. She wants to eat it so badly, then she remembers what the man in the lab coat told her.

“If you wait until I get back, you can have two mini-marshmallows.”

He is taking forever. Perhaps she could eat this one now, and then get another one when she returns home? Maybe he isn’t coming back? Maybe when he returns she won’t get anything? She kicks her 4-year-old legs, squirms in her chair, and hums her favorite song with her eyes closed. Then finally she hears the door squeak open behind her.

“Congratulations,” says the man in the lab coat as he casually strolls into the room, “since you were patient, now you get two mini marshmallows. He hands her the two soft treats, and she gratefully gobbles them down.

This same experiment was carried out dozens of times over four decades by Dr. Walter Mischel of Stanford University. There are two very interesting discoveries that were made by Dr. Mischel through this experiment. First, those children who had the will power to hold off and wait for two marshmallows were more successful than those who did not. How much more successful? The studies showed that those children who could wait were more socially competent, self-assertive, and capable of dealing with frustration. In fact, according to Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, where I first heard the story, those patient children also scored on average 210 points higher on their SAT’s. That small marshmallow turns out to be a pretty strong predictor, and to understand why- we need to understand how the brains function. Second, he learned that the survival instinct that pushes children to eat that first marshmallow is a very strong one. So what is going on in the human brain? How can understanding that help us as professionals?

LOADING PDF: If there are any problems, click here to download the file.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Adrian Dayton | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Adrian Dayton on:

JD Supra Readers' Choice 2016 Awards
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:

Sign up to create your digest using LinkedIn*

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.

Already signed up? Log in here

*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.