the marshmallow experiment


On completion of this INTEF training course on emotion regulation and social media we have been asked to create activities to raise awareness on Healthcare and Online safety.

The name Dr Walter Mischel immediately popped up as I was reading Ms María Brena and Mr Use Pastrana’s presentation and following introduction to the video clip «Are you living an Insta Lie?» (further down below). The subject matter being  immediate interactions and responses in the form of «Likes» as indicators of social success. And consequently addictive behaviours. In his talk Dr Mischel explains how children develop self-control and what the implications of self-control are for their adult life.



«Self-control, formerly known as willpower, has been an issue ever since Adam and Eve lost Paradise because they couldn’t resist the temptation of the serpent and the Apple»




The Marshmallow test is whatever a child picks from a set of assorted goodies that they are offered when given a choice of «having two of their very favourite things» that they can have if they wait by themselves until the researcher comes back to the room, which can be as long as 20 minutes. If they do that they get the two things that they have been waiting for. But if they want to, at any time, they can ring the bell or start eating one of those goodies and then they don’t get their two preferred objects.

What was found in many studies is that the choices the children make have very serious connections to how their lives work out in the sense that kids that were able to self regulate to delay gratification by the time they are four or five years old, have a much better chance of doing well at school, of thriving as adolescents and moving on in life.

Willpower and self-control are cognitive skills, which have been able to be identified as quite easily teachable, not only to children but to adults. There are tools available to all of us (as mindfulness) which can enhance the ability to regulate our emotions and our temptations and to allow us to take future consequences into account. Children learn to become more oriented to the future and to be able to make choices that allow them to have a better chance to make the most of their lives.



take future consequences into account




All of this would lead us to the proposed activity below connected to the immediate response and the need to regulate our temptations and manage our emotions on social media.





This group activity  is called «On second thought» and it will promote a positive and close attitude in handling technology, teach participants how to properly manage our emotions when certain problems arise, and allow them to develop a material that helps them to know how to act in each case». After they have watched the video clip «Are you living an Insta lie?» students are invited to:

  1. explore their emotions when they are scrolling down Instagram posts;
  2. explore their reactions when they are scrolling down Instagram posts;
  3. explore the real need to «Like» new posts and chain reaction;
  4. explore their actual need to immediately upload a better post:
  5. consider wether they would post their «messy side» of the office desk some time;
  6. reconsider their repeated phubbing at the table and possible alternatives / pacts;
  7. explore the real need to «Lie» with new posts;
  8. observe their emotional transitions after people’s «Likes» or their absence (more);
  9. cultivate self-compassion and loving kindness after feelings of low self-esteem;
  10. and propose alternative activities to «Insta lies» posts: arty photos of nature or people, creative original paintings, writing that great story they’ve been thinking about, listening to music or an audiobook, keeping a diary or making up a dance, etc


To complete the activity that will be presented by students within 10 days, the world’s fastest storytelling platform «pecha kucha» will be used. 10 images to present their views on the above suggested items [see how to easily create storytelling with pecha kucha]. Here is an example:

The pecha kucha presentation can be a pair or group activity, and anonymous votes will be cast to choose a favourite based on:


  • the proposal of alternative activities to Insta lies,
  • the openness in sharing experiences with classmates,
  • the visual thinking inspirations,
  • the self-compassion and loving kindness exercises suggested.  


All participants will receive feedback from their classmates and teacher focusing on the positive aspects and some areas for improvement.


A final 3-min Mindfulness intervention can be practiced to top up the activity orienting participants to «Cultivating patience as opposed to immediate overreacting»

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