Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Feldman, Solomon E.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Self-control in children; Reward (Psychology)


The current study explored the effects of affect and arousal on children's ability to delay gratification. Kindergarten and second-grade children individually experienced one of four levels of affect/arousal induction (positive vs. negative/low vs. high). The induction involved asking each child to reflect upon the description of a universal, solitary act that occurs in the course of daily living. The child was then asked to choose between two reward objects which differed in attractiveness. The delay-of-gratification contingencies were then described. It was explained that the experimenter would leave the room for a while, and that the child could summon the experimenter anytime and obtain the nonpreferred object. However, in order to obtain the preferred reward, the child would have to wait for the experimenter to return without being asked. After ascertaining that the contingencies were understood, the experimenter left the child alone in the experimental room, either until summoned or 15 minutes had elapsed. The results of this study support the view that the ability to delay gratification increases with age. The affect and arousal inductions were not effective in eliciting differences in delay behavior. One methodological difficulty was that numerous subjects reached ceiling using the 900-second delay interval. There were also difficulties associated with the affective manipulations. The positive affect/low arousal induction was more effective in producing changes in affect and arousal than the positive affect/high arousal induction, although the underlying reason for this difference is unclear. Furthermore, there were difficulties eliciting and sustaining changes in affect for the negative affect groups. An interesting, though unplanned, finding of this investigation is that differences in teachers' behavior toward the experimenter may be predictive of delay behavior. Students of friendly teachers tended to delay longer than students whose teachers were aloof toward the experimenter.


Bibliography: pages [87]-98.


113 pages




Northern Illinois University

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