Delayed gratification and impulse control

Delayed gratification includes the ability to wait for what you want. Learn more about why delayed gratification is usually so difficult and the importance of developing impulse control.

What is delayed gratification?

At the annual company Christmas party, when you want to lose weight and encounter plates of delicious and tempting food, what do you do? If you give in and fill your plate with goodies, it may ruin your diet, but you will enjoy some instant gratification.

If you manage to resist and eat salad and chew carrot sticks at night, then you may get a bigger reward-get rid of those excess weight and be able to wear your favorite jeans.

This ability to resist temptation and adhere to goals is often referred to as willpower or self-control, and delayed gratification is often regarded as a core part of this behavior. We postpone what we want now so that we might get other things, better things in the future.

In many areas of life, choosing long-term rewards over instant gratification is a major challenge. From avoiding a piece of chocolate cake when trying to lose weight to staying home and studying instead of going out to parties with friends, the ability to delay gratification may mean whether we can achieve our goals. Do you have the ability to resist and get rewards later-or even better -?

Researchers have discovered that this ability to delay gratification is not just an important part of achieving goals. It can also have a major impact on long-term life success and overall well-being.

Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

In a classic psychology experiment in the 1970s, a psychologist named Walter Mischel put a snack in front of children and let them make a choice. They can enjoy the food now, or they can wait for a while to get two snacks.

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When the experimenter left the room, many children immediately ate the snacks (usually pretzels or marshmallows), but some children are now able to postpone the urge to enjoy the food, waiting to be rewarded with two delicacies later.

Michelle discovered that children who can delay gratification have many advantages over those who can’t wait at all. Children who wait for snacks do better academically a few years later than those who eat snacks immediately. Those who delayed gratification also showed fewer behavioral problems and later had much higher SAT scores.

Why is waiting so difficult?

Therefore, if the ability to control impulse and delay gratification is so important, how can people improve this ability?

In follow-up experiments, Michelle found that using a variety of distraction techniques can help children delay satisfaction more effectively. These techniques include singing, thinking about other things, or covering your eyes.

However, in the real world, delaying gratification is not always that simple. Although the children in the Michel study promised to receive secondary rewards as long as they waited for a short period of time, there is not always such a guarantee in everyday scenes. If you give up that chocolate cake, you still may not lose weight. If you skip social activities to study, your test scores may still be poor.

It is this uncertainty that makes it so difficult to give up instant rewards. The delicacies before you are certain, but your weight loss goal seems to be far away and uncertain.

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Appear in an article knowNeuroscientists Joseph W. Kable and Joseph T. McGuire of the University of Pennsylvania stated that our uncertainty about future rewards makes delayed gratification a challenge. “The timing of real-world events is not always so predictable,” they explained.

“Decision makers usually wait for buses, job opportunities, weight loss, and other results with significant time uncertainty.”In other words, we don’t know when these long-term rewards will come—or whether they will come.

McGuire and Kable suggest that while seeking immediate rewards is often seen as losing control and succumbing to temptation, it can actually represent rational action when the promised reward is uncertain or unlikely.

Trust is a key factor

Whether you are willing to wait may largely depend on your worldview. If you are not sure whether something will actually happen, will you wait? Do you believe in your ability to make things happen or believe that your goals will be achieved?

Celeste Kidd, a cognitive science student at the University of Rochester, recently studied Michel’s famous experiment and carefully studied this trust issue. The experiment is basically the same as Michel’s experiment, but in half of the cases, the researchers violated their promise to provide a second treatment and only apologized to the children.

When they conducted the experiment for the second time, most of the children who received the promised hospitality in the first experiment were again able to wait for the second payment. The children who were deceived for the first time were unwilling to wait this time—they ate the marshmallow almost immediately after the researchers left the room.

Increase the ability to delay gratification

Some strategies that may help improve the ability to delay gratification include:

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Give a clear time frame

In situations where people are not sure when they will receive the expected reward, it may be beneficial to provide feedback on how long they must wait.For example, the train station may announce the waiting time, and the teacher may give students a clear deadline, stipulating when the student will receive the promised reward.

Set realistic deadlines

When trying to achieve goals (such as losing weight), people are sometimes prone to setting unrealistic deadlines or benchmarks.For example, if a person trying to lose weight sets a completely unrealistic goal of losing 10 pounds a week, he will fail.

When he fails to lose his first 10 pounds, he may give up and succumb to temptation. A more realistic goal of one pound a week will allow him to see the true results of his efforts.

Get advice from the VigorTip Mind podcast

Hosted by editor-in-chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The VigorTip Mind podcast shares an exercise that can help you introduce healthy habits into your life or get rid of the bad things that have been holding you back Habit.

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In most cases, delaying gratification is certainly not easy, especially when we are not sure whether we will get popular rewards. But researchers have found that this ability to delay our immediate desire to pursue long-term goals may be a key part of success.

Although you may not always be able to resist instant gratification, it is definitely worthwhile to try some new strategies and exercise your willpower.