Deferred gratification

Deferred gratification

Deferred gratification and delayed gratification denote a person’s ability to wait in order to obtain something that he or she wants. This intellectual attribute is also called impulse control, will power, self control, and “low” time preference, in economics. Sociologically, good impulse control is considered a positive personality trait, which psychologist Daniel Goleman indicated as an important component trait of emotional intelligence. Moreover, people who lack the psychological trait of being able to delay gratification are said to require instant gratification and might suffer poor impulse control. The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment indicates that good impulse control might be psychologically important for academic achievement and for success in adult life.[1]



The psychoanalytic term impulse control derives from the Freudian psychology theory of personality (Id, Ego, Super-ego),[citation needed] wherein, the id is the pleasure principle, the ego is the reality principle, and the super-ego is the morality principle. The purpose of the ego is to satisfy the needs of the Id, whilst respecting the needs of other people. Accordingly, a person who is unable to delay gratification might possess an imbalanced psychic apparatus wherein the id cannot be controlled by the ego and the super-ego.


To test the theory of a person’s ability to delay gratification, the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment (1972), conducted by Prof. Walter Mischel, at Stanford University, California, studied a group of four-year-old children, each of whom was given one marshmallow, but promised two on condition that he or she wait twenty minutes, before eating the first marshmallow. Some children were able to wait the twenty minutes, and some were unable to wait. Furthermore, the university researchers then studied the developmental progress of each participant child into adolescence, and reported that children able to delay gratification (wait) were psychologically better adjusted, more dependable persons, and, as high school students, scored significantly greater grades in the collegiate Scholastic Aptitude Test.[2] More recently, the study Foetal Alcohol Syndrome: Developmental Characteristics and Directions for further Research (1994) reported that children afflicted with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) are less able to delay gratification; indicating, perhaps, that poor impulse control might originate biologically, in the brain.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Jonah Lehrer (May 18, 2009). "DON'T! The secret of self-control". The New Yorker. 
  2. ^ Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., Peake, P. K. (1990). “Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-regulatory Competencies from Preschool Delay of Gratification: Identifying Diagnostic Conditions”. Developmental Psychology, 26(6), 978–986 (press +.
  3. ^ Williams, B. F.; Howard, V. F.; McLaughlin, T. F. (1994). "Fetal alcohol syndrome: Developmental characteristics and directions for further research". Education & Treatment of Children 17: 86–97. 

External links

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