Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Pielstick, Norval L.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Reinforcement (Psychology)


The delay of reinforcement or delay of gratification has been considered a crucial variable in the development of complex behaviors by those concerned with human behavior. The effects of many subject or personality variables on preference for delayed reinforcement have been extensively investigated, but few studies have dealt with the effects of situational variables. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relative contributions of three situational variables, viz., chaining, task novelty, and task complexity, on preference for delayed reinforcement. Second grade children were required to sort a stack of cards which varied in number and complexity. Half of the children were given pre-exposure to the cards before the sorting task. The results indicated that children preferred larger-delayed rewards in the nonchained delay condition more than those in the chained condition. This finding was discussed in terms of delay of secondary reinforcements. Novelty only tends to increase preference for delayed reinforcement. This finding was discussed in terms of motivation. The complexity of the task was unrelated to the children’s preference for delayed reinforcement. The time taken by the children to decide whether to delay reinforcement and the number of errors committed on the task had no effect on the preference for delayed rewards. The general findings were discussed in terms of their application to training methods for establishing the ability to delay gratification.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


39 pages




Northern Illinois University

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