Relative or absolute? The impact of reward size on 3- and 4-year old children’s ability to delay gratification.
The ability to delay gratification in childhood correlates with a number of positive outcomes in adulthood. The delay-of-gratification choice paradigm is a widely used measure of children’s ability to make decisions that favour their future self. The present study investigated 3- and 4-year-old children’s preferences for the delayed reward when the difference between size of the immediate and delayed rewards was manipulated. Children in the relative condition chose between an immediate reward of one sticker and a delayed reward of two, three, four, and five stickers. Children in the absolute condition chose between an immediate reward of one, two, three, and four sticker rewards and a delayed reward of five stickers. It was hypothesized that 3- year-old children’s preferences would be driven by the absolute value of the delayed reward, whereas 4-year-old children’s preferences would be driven by the relative difference between the immediate and delayed rewards. In contrast to our predictions, there was no difference between the performance of 3- and 4-year-old children and children’s choices did not differ as a function of condition. We did, however, find that females selected the delayed reward on a greater number of trials than males.
Advisor: Scarf, Damian
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: delay of gratification; choice; paradigm; maintanance; paradigmchoice; task; relative; absolute
Research Type: Thesis