In an experiment that is now well-known, researchers tested the self-control of children that were presented with a treat (marshmallows, Oreos, etc.). The premise was simple. Could they wait 20 minutes or so and therefore get extra treats to eat later? Or did they lack the patience and eat them anyway?
Researchers found that this translated to later development: the children who waited (for however long) were more likely to be described as more disciplined in school, have higher SAT scores, have a lower BMI as adults as as having distinctly different brain scans later in life. Working backwards, the researchers also found that this happened with younger children too. Babies and toddlers who could comfort themselves with toys or other distractions when separated from a parent would become marshmallow-waiters.
That said, Mischel emphasizes that this is not fate and describes how people who might have initially tested as being more impatient may have found ways of coping, strategies to change, etc. These involve role-playing scenarios, positive thinking, thinking through one's actions to the end result, etc.
In part two he gets into more science-y jargon which I found boring. Part 1 (which summarizes most of the findings and walks through the experiments) was very conversational, very interesting. But Part 2 lost me.
In Part 3 Mischel then tries to translate the results to larger world settings. How can schools and the educational system help teach children such skills? He clearly shows how slightly older children (8-10 were the ages of the children when Mischel first meets/talks to them) than those in the Marshmallow Experiment (who are around pre-school age) can adapt and change, but it involves their own personal desires plus a little bit of outside help (in this case it's KIPP, or the Knowledge is Power Program). As a child's brain is more malleable than an adults, it's key to get to them early.
It was a pleasant read, although as I mentioned it was somewhat uneven in readability. But definitely a good pick up for anyone who has any interest in any of the themes or concepts that this famous "Marshmallow Experiment" covers.