Date of Award

5-9-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Williamson

Second Advisor

Dr. Lauren Adamson

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Beran

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Christopher Conway

Abstract

Delay of gratification is the ability to forego an immediate indulgence in lieu of a later, greater reward. Past research has shown that using behavioral strategies may help children to delay gratification longer. The current project tests whether children can learn one such strategy, covering the eyes, through imitation. Four-year-olds saw a model delay gratification using a strategy, using no strategy, or saw no model. They then participated in an accumulation task, where they could earn an incremental sticker reward. Children who saw a strategy showed evidence of imitation by covering their eyes. Unexpectedly, however, this had an adverse influence on their ability to delay gratification. Thus, although children can apply a strategy, its effectiveness may be limited by the type of task used (accumulation) or from an incomplete understanding of the strategy’s function. Additional research is needed to investigate whether delay performance can be promoted by a social example.

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