slideshow widget

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Delayed gratification

I am one of many who will contend that one of the problems with our society, and why the economy is doing so poorly lately, is that so few Americans believe -- or even comprehend -- the idea of delayed gratification. 

We live in a society where we want everything, and we want everything now.  We want the best house and the best car and the best toys for our kids and the best toys for ourselves.  Many of us are even willing to mortgage everything we have in order get all this stuff. 

Delayed gratification, defined, means that you do just the opposite:  you wait.  You wait to buy something until you can pay cash for it.  In this way, you can get twice as much and enjoy it twice as much. 

Yet many of us can't wait.  We think we need things right now.  This was the topic of a research project completed in the 1960s and 1970s (and discussed here at science daily) where pre-school kids were given a marshmallow and told if they wait five minutes before they ate it they could have another marshmallow.  "Some of the children resisted, others didn't."

A new study followed up with the kids tested in the original study and the results showed that the same kids who resisted eating the marshmallow when they were kids showed that they were still skilled at delayed gratification as adults. 

Kids who couldn't resist the temptation to eat that marshmallow (or cookie, or candy bar) as kid were equally as likely to be unable to resist the temptation of immediate gratification as an adult.  Which almost makes one wonder if the skills of gratification are inert and genetic as opposed to environmental.

Of equal interest, the study showed this:
Brain imaging showed key differences between the two groups in two areas: the prefrontal cortex and the ventral striatum.
Researchers say this is the first time they've found "specific" brain differences associated with gratification.  This might help them, they contend, to learn more about and how to treat people with addiction -- like addiction to stuff.

I learned about the above study from this article in the Blaze.


No comments: