Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Can gratitude reduce costly impatience?

Date:
March 31, 2014
Source:
Northeastern University College of Science
Summary:
In a potentially landmark study, a team of researchers demonstrate that feelings of gratitude automatically reduce financial impatience. The human mind tends to devalue future rewards compared to immediate ones -- a phenomenon that often leads to favoring immediate gratification over long-term wellbeing. As a consequence, patience has long been recognized to be a virtue. And indeed, the inability to resist temptation underlies a host of problems ranging from credit card debt and inadequate savings to unhealthy eating and drug addiction.

The human mind tends to devalue future rewards compared to immediate ones -- a phenomenon that often leads to favoring immediate gratification over long-term wellbeing. As a consequence, patience has long been recognized to be a virtue. And indeed, the inability to resist temptation underlies a host of problems ranging from credit card debt and inadequate savings to unhealthy eating and drug addiction.

The prevailing view for reducing costly impatience has emphasized the use of willpower. Emotions were to be tamped down in order to avoid irrational impulses for immediate gain. But as Northeastern University psychologist David DeSteno notes, "Emotions exist to serve adaptive purposes, so the idea that emotions would always be a hindrance to long-term success makes little sense."

In a potentially landmark study forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, a team of researchers from Northeastern University, the University of California, Riverside, and Harvard Kennedy School challenge the conventional view by demonstrating that feelings of gratitude automatically reduce financial impatience.

The Study

Impatience was assessed using a set of decisions pitting desire for instant gratification against waiting for larger, future rewards. For example, participants chose between receiving $54 now or $80 in 30 days. To increase the stakes, participants had the chance to obtain one of the financial rewards they selected. But before making these decisions, participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions in which they wrote about an event from their past that made them feel (a) grateful, (b) happy, or (c) neutral, depending on condition.

Although participants feeling neutral and happy showed a strong preference for immediate payouts, those feeling grateful showed more patience. For example, they required $63 immediately to forgo receiving $85 in three months, whereas neutral and happy people required only $55 to forgo the future gain. What's more, the degree of patience exhibited was directly related to the amount of gratitude any individual felt. Positive feelings alone were not enough to enhance patience, as happy participants were just as impatient as those in the neutral condition. The influence of gratitude, possibly due to its ties to a sense of fulfillment and a need to "pay back" in the future, was quite specific.

The implications of this finding are profound. "Showing that emotion can foster self-control and discovering a way to reduce impatience with a simple gratitude exercise opens up tremendous possibilities for reducing a wide range of societal ills from impulse buying and insufficient saving to obesity and smoking," says Assistant Professor Ye Li from the University of California, Riverside School of Business Administration. Harvard Kennedy School Professor Jennifer Lerner underscored that economic impatience is one of the most common and troubling tendencies in human decision making.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northeastern University College of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northeastern University College of Science. "Can gratitude reduce costly impatience?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331100236.htm>.
Northeastern University College of Science. (2014, March 31). Can gratitude reduce costly impatience?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331100236.htm
Northeastern University College of Science. "Can gratitude reduce costly impatience?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331100236.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins