Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Delay of Gratification

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1791-1

Delay of gratification: The ability to reject impulsive desires in favor of preferable rewards in the future is called delay of gratification. Some researchers claim that the ability to delay gratification is rooted in cognitive mechanisms that all people likely have at their disposal (Mischel et al. 1988). However, other researchers have identified reliable individual differences in the ability to delay gratification, suggesting trait-like variability in self-control resources (Krueger et al. 1996). This entry presents an overview of individual differences in the ability and tendency to delay gratification.


Self-control; Willpower

In what are now known as “the marshmallow studies,” Mischel and colleagues conducted a series of experiments that measured the cognitive and attentional mechanisms of delayed gratification (Mischel et al. 1972). They found that some strategies for self-control were more effective than others. In each of these experiments, children were seated in...


Dispositional Ability Marshmallow Understanding Individual Differences Urgent Feeling Lean Peers 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bonato, D. P., & Boland, F. J. (1983). Delay of gratification in obese children. Addictive Behaviors, 8(1), 71–74.Google Scholar
  2. Funder, D. C., Block, J. H., & Block, J. (1983). Delay of gratification: Some longitudinal personality correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 1198–1213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Griskevicius, V., Tybur, J. M., Delton, A. W., & Robertson, T. E. (2011). The influence of mortality and socioeconomic status on risk and delayed rewards: A life history theory approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 1015–1026.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Krueger, R. F., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., White, J., & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (1996). Delay of gratification, psychopathology, and personality: Is low self-control specific to externalizing problems? Journal of Personality, 64, 107–129.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Metcalfe, J., & Mischel, W. (1999). A hot/cool-system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower. Psychological Review, 106, 3–19.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Mischel, W., Ebbesen, E. B., & Raskoff Zeiss, A. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21, 204–218.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Peake, P. K. (1988). The nature of adolescent competencies predicted by preschool delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 687–696.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Woolley, K., & Fishbach, A. (2017). Immediate rewards predict adherence to long-term goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43(2), 151–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Catherine Cottrell
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Social SciencesNew College of FloridaSarasotaUSA