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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01649

The Motivational Aspect of Children’s Delayed Gratification: Values and Decision Making in Middle Childhood

  • 1Department of Psychology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • 2Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, United States

Delayed gratification is the ability to postpone an immediate gain in favor of greater and later reward. Although delayed gratification has been studied extensively, little is known about the motivation behind children’s decisions. Since values are cognitive representations of individuals’ motivations, which serve to guide behavior, we studied the relationship between children’s values and delayed gratification. Two main distinct motivations overlapping with values may underlie this decision: conservation - the desire to reduce uncertainty and preserve the status quo, and self-enhancement - the desire to maximize resources and profit for the self. Accordingly, we hypothesized that conservation values would to relate to children’s preference to hold on to what is given as soon as possible, and that self-enhancement values would relate to children’s preference for delaying gratification. Seven-year old children (N=205) ranked their values with the Picture-Based Values Survey (Döring, Blauensteiner, Aryus, Drögekamp & Bilsky 2010) as part of the Longitudinal Israeli Study of Twins (Avinun & Knafo, 2013). The children also played a decision-making animation game that included delayed gratification decisions. In support of our hypotheses, greater delayed gratification related negatively to conservation values, especially to security and tradition, and related positively to self-enhancement values, especially power and achievement. This is one of the first demonstrations that children’s values relate meaningfully to their behaviors.

Keywords: Values, Delay of Gratification, Children, Behavior, motivation.

Received: 07 May 2018; Accepted: 01 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Diana Boer, Universität Koblenz Landau, Germany

Reviewed by:

Ronald Fischer, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Jill A. Jacobson, Queen's University, Canada  

Copyright: © 2019 Twito, Israel, Simonson and Knafo-Noam. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Miss. Louise Twito, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Psychology, Jerusalem, Israel, tvitoluiz@gmail.com
Prof. Ariel Knafo-Noam, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Psychology, Jerusalem, Israel, msarielk@mscc.huji.ac.il