Waiting for Marshmallows

Waiting for Marshmallows

Patience is a virtue. It helps in a lot of ways, particularly in terms of learning delayed gratification. Consider slow versus fast food. Or in-depth reporting versus 15-second sound bites. Or sticking with anything long enough to get the full picture. Or disinfecting your hands. Or avoiding getting hit by a bus.

One of the best known related studies is Psychologist Walter Mischel’s marshmallow experiment at Stanford University, back in the 1960s. Kids were offered a choice: one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows if they could hold out for 15 minutes. The most significant outcome came from follow-up studies years later – the kids who could stand to wait generally led more successful lives down the road, as indicated by further schooling, body mass index, SAT scores and the like.

I was thinking about this recently while hand-washing. I admit it, I could do a better job, meaning I could wash a bit longer, and I think I’ve got plenty of company in that regard. (Yes, I was thinking of you!) I read recently that singing the alphabet song while washing is a good way to make sure enough time is invested. Maybe in some restrooms, but I work in a police department and I’m not sure it would fly. Maybe the Miranda warning?

Anyway, I had a thought about that: what can we add to the hand washing experience to convince us to hang in there? How about adding a Youtube video on a small screen, maybe built into the mirror, or a Pandora link interwoven with the water-flow motion trigger. Maybe a joke of the day, or greatest sports moment audio clips.

I put all that on the back burner, only to stumble upon another lesson in patience, posted by Jean Côté, Conseiller en sécurité publique et ICPS, on a CPTED web site, and thought it was well worth sharing. I’m not sure it would help with hand washing, but it might make it safer for kids walking to school:

Tod Schneider
Written by Tod Schneider

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