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The delay of gratification test for adults: Validating a behavioral measure of self-motivation in a sample of older people

Abstract

Most previous delay of gratification tests were developed for children and are inappropriate for application in adults. The authors therefore developed the Delay of Gratification Test for Adults (DoG-A), which includes four types of reward that are meaningful to adults, namely snacks, real money, hypothetical money, and magazines. Four subscores and two composite scores can be calculated. This study is the first to evaluate the DoG-A and to investigate its association with external variables. A community sample of 147 cognitively healthy participants aged between 60 and 94 years completed a questionnaire and cognitive tests measuring delay discounting, self-regulation, motivational self-concept, personality, wellbeing, and cognitive function. The intercorrelations of the subscales were low to medium and the internal consistency of the composite scores was moderate (α = .4), indicating relative domain independence of the four reward types. The nomological net established by investigating the relations of the DoG-A with other constructs proved to be fairly meaningful. The correlations of all subscales with the delay discounting rate were significant and moderate. The Snacks subscale showed the most consistent pattern of results in terms of moderate positive correlations with self-reported motivation regulation, optimism, dutifulness, and deliberation. The Snacks subscale also correlated with various measures of wellbeing. A regression analysis showed that DoG Snacks remained a significant predictor of wellbeing when self-reported self-regulation and other variables were controlled. These findings indicate that the DoG-A yields an interpretable behavioral measure of self-motivation and offers a developmentally adequate extension of the delay of gratification paradigm for use with adults.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a grant from the Hedwig Widmer Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland. We thank Sabine Maier, Stefanie Eicher, Katrin Blanke, Vesna-Maria Garstick, Kathleen Werner, Myriam Brandner, and Sandy Krammer for their assistance in recruitment and data collection.

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Forstmeier, S., Drobetz, R. & Maercker, A. The delay of gratification test for adults: Validating a behavioral measure of self-motivation in a sample of older people. Motiv Emot 35, 118–134 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-011-9213-1

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Keywords

  • Delay of gratification
  • Self-motivation
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-control
  • Delay discounting
  • Older age
  • Wellbeing